Residents build their own community through jobs with local construction company

Out of the Box is a social enterprise that connects people with jobs – and mentorship 

A man looks out a window.
Ameen Binwalee is the CEO and co-founder of Out of the Box social enterprise (Photo courtesy Ameen Binwalee) 

With extensive development plans in the works for Scarborough’s Greater Golden Mile, one local company is working to ensure residents benefit from the changes around them.

Ameen Binwalee, a social justice advocate, co-founded a construction company in 2015 called Out of the Box that prioritizes hiring from the communities it works in. It offers skilled labour to ongoing projects to help stimulate economic growth and provide lifelong skills. 

Out of the Box grew out of Binwalee’s own life experience.  

“I saw the socioeconomic disparity between people from my community, the African-Canadian community, and the people outside my community, even in the construction field,” he said. 

“When I lived in Toronto Community Housing, I saw my friends sitting outside, and I would see people doing construction on the building, but they weren’t from the building. I thought, ‘What if we train people from these buildings to work in their neighbourhood?’” 

When Binwalee heard about the Inclusive Local Economic Opportunity (ILEO) initiative, he knew he wanted to be involved. ILEO is working to find ways to address inequality and economic development in the Greater Golden Mile while the area is redeveloped. 

In 2020, the Centre for Inclusive Local Economic Opportunity, Golden Mile (CIEO) was established to build on the ILEO initiative and create a community-level connection point to jobs, training, and other economic opportunities that are emerging in the Greater Golden Mile. Out of the Box was also one of CIEO’s founding members.

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Revitalization in the neighbourhood, as envisioned by the City of Toronto’s Golden Mile Secondary Plan, could accommodate up to 19,000 jobs. Binwalee is hopeful about how Out of the Box can participate in the growth of the Greater Golden Mile, not only as a construction-sector business, but also as a local employer. Residents who work with Out of the Box could connect with construction jobs through Binwalee’s company. 

Currently, Binwalee and his company continue to work throughout the GTA, providing services such as plumbing, framing, property maintenance and other skilled trade services, all while ensuring the community grows through leadership and prosperity. 

In his eyes, Out of the Box doesn’t simply provide jobs. It also provides mentorship and empowers marginalized youth. 

“I had some struggles in high school, and I left early. I started working in construction with my uncle,” he said. “He was able to mentor me because I was going through many struggles as a teenager. He became a positive force in my life.”  

Over the last four years, Binwalee and OTB have hired dozens of employees who have been able to grow under his leadership. One of his proudest projects that his team was doing work for the City of Toronto, building organic food waste bins for schools and parks. 

The Greater Golden Mile neighbourhood has seen its fair share of economic issues over the past 30 years, with manufacturing jobs leaving the area and many residents feeling left behind compared to other parts of the city.  

ILEO is convened by United Way Greater Toronto and BMO.  

With leaders and entrepreneurs like Binwalee, the future of development in Scarborough looks bright. 

This story was produced as part of a partnership between Centennial College journalism students and United Way Greater Toronto.

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Posted: Apr 30 2024 10:25 am
Filed under: News