Hugh Heron wasn’t totally thrilled with the nomenclature when he recently received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Building Industry and Land Development Association (BILD).
“I was honoured to receive it, but I wasn’t happy with the term ‘Lifetime Achievement’ because I’ve got a long life ahead of me,” Heron told RENX.
Heron immigrated to Canada in 1967 and got his first job with Costain, a company he had worked for in Scotland before striking out on his own a decade later.
He co-founded Heron Homes in 1979. The company has gone on to build more than 8,000 homes in 50 communities across Ontario as well as more than a million square feet of commercial and retail space.
A lifetime of service
Heron has become one of the most active and influential professionals in the new home industry, as well as a spokesperson for the building and land development industry in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). He’s served in leadership positions in key industry institutions, including:
* chair of the Ontario New Home Warranty Program (which is now known as Tarion);
* president of the Greater Toronto Home Builders’ Association (which became BILD after merging with the Urban Development Institute/Ontario in 2007);
* president of the Ontario Home Builders’ Association;
* and senior board member of the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation.
Heron is also known for his community and charity work, particularly his establishment of The Mikey Network, which places public access defibrillators in schools, workplaces and public access areas across Canada. The “Mikey” defibrillators have been used to save 39 lives over the past 15 years.
The Mikey Network has expanded its reach and life-saving efforts by organizing and implementing a wide range of programs over the years, including Mikey Young at Heart, Mikey’s Kids, Mikey On Board, Mikey On The GO and Mikey’s Cops are Tops.
Heron has no plans to retire
Despite all of these accomplishments, Heron has no plans to slow down.
“I don’t intend to retire,” said Heron, who is now the president of Heathwood Homes, Heron Homes and principal with the Heron Group of Companies and Herity. “As far as I’m concerned, 80 is the new 60.”
Heron believes Canada is the greatest country in the world and that Canadians should welcome immigrants with open arms. In order to accommodate them, however, he thinks more young people need to get into construction trades because there’s a projected shortfall of 375,000 jobs in that area over the next 20 years.
“This industry creates more jobs than anybody,” said Heron, who’s less enthusiastic about government policies and how they affect the construction and housing industries without much consultation.
“If you had a piece of land 10 years ago, you could say it would take two years to get all the approvals to get it developed. Now it can take 10 years to get it approved.”
Housing developments and related companies
Despite such obstacles, Heathwood Homes and Heron Homes have current GTA low-rise developments: in Whitby with Country Lane; in North York with Eleven Altamont; on Mississauga Road just north of Steeles Avenue with Meadowgreen; and in Richmond Hill with Forest Hill on the Green.
Heathwood Homes and Heron Homes are now part of Herity, which also oversees Heron Student Housing Ventures, The Equity Development Group Inc., HRG Realty Group, Heron Interior Design, Heron Stone and The Mikey Network.
Another division, Heron Capital Corporation, is the parent company of the Two Men and a Truck moving company, document destruction company Redishred Capital Corp. and the United States operating company Herity USA.