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Building success together and overcoming pandemic challenges


The sun reflects on a a collection of high rise buildings in Toronto

If you live in or near the Greater Toronto Area, a skyline full of construction cranes is likely a familiar sight.

Those cranes represent a massive building boom – and job creation.

According to the Building Industry and Land Development Association (BILD), every construction crane you see in the GTA represents up to 500 new on-site and off-site jobs in construction and related fields. Each year, the GTA grows by about 100,000 people and the building, land development, and professional renovation industry must build between 35,000 and 40,000 new homes to accommodate that growth.

In the GTA, BILD has been the voice of this industry for 100 years, explains Dave Wilkes, President and CEO of BILD. It has approximately 1,300 members, including well-known developers and industry leaders. “Our organization advocates for the industry,” Dave states. “We speak as one voice, so government knows who to go to when it's looking for solutions around housing and commercial space affordability and support.”

Powered by a volunteer board of directors and a small team of professionals, BILD hosted three consumer home shows a year before the pandemic hit, attracting an audience of more than 245,000 people. It also ran networking events for members.

According to Dave, its popular home show will return in March 2022. “Right now, we provide virtual networking for our members to gather and learn from industry experts and others. And traditionally, we provide networking that not only provides opportunities to learn, but to get together and develop and maintain relationships within the industry,” he explains.

A passionate advocate in good times and bad

A crucial part of BILD’s mission is to be a unified, proactive advocate for the home building, land development, and professional renovation industry. Among its many roles, BILD facilitates information-sharing and discussion between the industry and government, provides solution-oriented recommendations to political decision-makers, and helps shape legislation and policy so that they are effective and fair for the industry and new home buyers.

“Our job as an advocate really focuses on making sure that we don't show up to complain, we don't show up to base our views on perceptions or stories – we show up with solutions,” comments Dave. “We've invested an awful lot of money in understanding, through working with experts within their respective fields, the root causes of some of the housing and commercial space challenges we're facing within the GTA. When we're meeting with governments, we show up with facts.”

Navigating COVID-19 restrictions with Meridian’s help

The building, development and professional renovation industry is essential. The industry contributed more than $34 billion to the GTA economy in 2018 and employed over 270,000 people in new home construction, renovation and repair. When the pandemic hit, BILD had to postpone popular live events and move other member-focused activities online, such as their popular networking events.

“We recognized that there was a need to continue to deliver information and opportunities virtually to our members,” recalls Dave. That’s why events for member networking, awards and BILD’s annual general meeting all moved online.

BILD also had to cancel several large in-person consumer home shows. This was a significant revenue hit, so they turned to Meridian for help, and Meridian stepped in to set up the financing BILD needed.

Meridian supplies BILD with credit facilities, business banking accounts, and other services. “I can't say enough about the support we received from Meridian,” recalls Dave. “Meridian really had our back, understood our business needs, and provided us with the necessary credit facility to bridge the gap created by the lack of revenue from home show sales,” he says. “I was so impressed with the attitude and the approach of Meridian and their urgency and dedication.”

An anniversary and a silver lining

2021 is a special year for BILD as the organization celebrates its 100-year anniversary.

Dave says the first meeting of the founding members was held in the lobby of a hotel in downtown Toronto and the first order of business was to plan a picnic for their families in High Park. “It has always been an industry that has celebrated relationships and networking from its very first origins,” comments Dave. “What defined us back in 1921 still defines us in 2021, which is the tireless support of our volunteer members,” he adds.

The strength of BILD’s team has also revealed a silver lining during the pandemic. “It has allowed us to undertake change at a pace that wouldn't have been possible without the catalyst [of the pandemic]. It’s allowed the team to come together in a way I didn’t think possible. It’s also accelerated the speed of our decision making,” Dave explains. “The crisis caused by the pandemic also gave us the opportunity to work with Meridian,” he adds.

Advice for other business leaders

During the pandemic, Dave says he’s been reminded of some important leadership lessons. “I'm not sure I follow it every day, but I now try to stay positive and make sure I don't lose hope about the opportunities that we have,” he says.

For example, advocating for affordable housing is an opportunity BILD plans to pursue. “What's ahead for us is making sure we talk about the challenges and the imbalance currently between supply and demand that is leading to the affordability challenges,” says Dave. “And making sure we do so in a way that keeps the home buyer and the commercial purchaser front and centre.”

There’s no slowing down, according Dave. “We refuse to use COVID-19 as an excuse to stop delivering on the benefits that we have,” he vows.

Learn more about the Building Industry and Land Development Association (BILD).

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