Get it done. Hazel McCallion’s Enduring Legacy for Canadian Entrepreneurs and Innovators

Mayor Hazel McCallion and Altitude Accelerator Executive Director Pam Banks

By Pam Banks

Altitude Accelerator, Executive Director 

This week, on Tuesday, February 14, Valentine’s Day, our community gathered together to pay their respects and to celebrate the remarkable life of Mayor Hazel McCallion. Her state funeral was attended by the highest levels of government and was also open to the public; a fitting tribute to a woman whose political power was as legendary as her unwavering commitment of putting her constituents first. 

As countless others have noted, she was a force to be reckoned with. In my role as founder and Executive Director of Altitude Accelerator, I have had the unique honour and privilege of working with her. Hazel’s early support of the RIC Centre back in 2008 (what would eventually grow into Altitude Accelerator) helped put us on the map. For Hazel, no challenge was too tough to tackle, and if she felt it was important, she’d simply, in her own words, “get it done.”

There are certainly countless lessons she has taught us over the years that would be important for Canadian innovators and entrepreneurs to take to heart. And perhaps, the most important is: take a gamble on a new idea if it’s going to make a difference. Leverage leadership skills to get support from industry and forge critical partnerships to get it done, faster. We all know how Hazel would move mountains to make things happen. She worked the problem and found solutions. And people followed her.

Image: Mayor Hazel McCallion “lighting the way” for RIC at its launch in 2008.

I recall Hazel saying at our official launch event in June 2008, “Innovation and commercialization are key drivers to strengthen the economy. Businesses and communities that invest in innovation, and support commercialization, present the communities with the best quality of life.”

Canada has long topped U.S. News & World Report “quality of life” rankings and “countries where people would most like to live” lists for years, and in 2022 was cited for its “high-tech industrial society with a high standard of living.” Hazel had a vision of where Mississauga, Brampton, and our surrounding communities in the Peel Region could be in the future if we focused in this area and helped build the foundations for Ontario’s current trajectory of economic development.

And today, nearly 15 years after we began, Altitude Accelerator has helped local entrepreneurs raise nearly $1B in funding, generate $530M in revenue, and create almost 3,000 new jobs – in industries ranging from advanced manufacturing to medtech to cleantech. We have robust programs ranging from a sales and marketing incubator to investor readiness, legal and IP bootcamps, and financial advisory services. Our roster of 50+ industry advisors include some of the most successful entrepreneurs in Canada.

Hazel’s enduring legacy for us is that she helped Ontario forge a path to prioritize entrepreneurship and commercialization in our communities that has made a real, quantifiable impact that will be felt by generations to come – not just in Canada, but across the globe.

We are proud to be a partner of the City of Mississauga, and we are excited to see the innovation agenda continue to grow exponentially under the leadership of Mayor Bonnie Crombie with the launch of IDEA at Square One.

If you would like to learn more about Altitude Accelerator, if you’re an entrepreneur looking for mentorship, or an advisor looking to help tomorrow’s leaders forge their own path, we’d love for you to join us.

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