How Is The Economy Of Northwestern Ontario Doing in 2017?
I asked three Thunder Bay people involved in our economy for their opinions about what to expect in 2017 in Northwestern Ontario. Here is what they said!
Richard Pohler, Senior Economic Development Officer at the CEDC
What is your opinion of our current local economy?
“ It is an economy that is in constant change and transition. We have seen new activities come to the region particularly in gold mining. Forestry has rebounded somewhat since it had declines in the mid
2000’s, and its nice to see that type of development taking place.”
“We have manufacturing through Bombardier that has a number of orders to complete. That will create work for the foreseeable future- the challenge will be to get new work. We recently worked with a company from Hamilton that has acquired the former shipyard operation in Thunder Bay and they have some exciting plans for the future.”
“The University is working on another facility, the CASE project, so there is lots to celebrate. The hotel on the waterfront is starting with steel on order which will be a concrete step in the construction.
There is a new office building going up on Balmoral, a large structure, and other developments being contemplated in the retail sector. There are a few more fast food chains coming in which is good to see because it reflects growth.”
“ Our economy is progressing nicely, the challenge is to build on that progression, amplify it, to expand it and try to attract value added businesses and services that inject money into the economy and upport the existing base of companies and services that are here now.”
Keith Hobbs, Mayor of Thunder Bay
“ I think our economy is stable. We have seen a lot of growth in small business. Small business is what drives the City of Thunder Bay right now as we have lost so much of our industrial base. We are hopefully going to get that back as well.”
“ We had a nice presentation recently from KWG Resources on the Ring of Fire. Once those roads get built either north south or east west, which ever way they choose, that will be great for our economy, the lifeline. We do have so much else happening, we have diversified the economy so much and are not relying on industry only anymore. We do need it to take some of the burden off the residential tax payer.”
“On the city books we have $100 million in reserves. The art gallery on the waterfront is good debt, we may also have to take out a small debenture on the Event Centre. Yes we have debt but it is not bad debt. The city books are in great shape. The city made a huge investment in water and waste water which is $100 million of our debt. We have world class water treatment. Our debt is around $190 million but looking at our debt to reserve ratio we are not that bad. We have been elevated to AA rating and when I came in we were at an A rating. I think the last two councils have been fiscally responsible. We had the flood that really set us back, we are still reeling from that. I think the bill for our water pollution control plant work was about $70 million so those are the types of things that set you back as a community.”
“The hotel on the waterfront is moving ahead with a concrete pour and steel is coming in. It is a great development for the city and another piece of the puzzle for the waterfront. We have direction from city
council to still proceed with the Event Centre project and see that project to fruition. I firmly believe it is a great project for Thunder Bay. People said when I became Mayor wait for 10 years for the event
centre, well we have waited for 7 years now and as soon as we hear about funding and I am hearing rumbling about funding, we will do it. We may have to drop the convention section, we don’t know yet, council hasn’t directed that yet, but we could build a beautiful rink. I met with the Mayor of Sault Ste Marie recently and he said if they had to do it over again they would make some changes to their facility and we can learn from others. We have done a lot of the planning and we have time to get it right so I am still excited about the project. It may be after I step down.”
“On Costco, I talked to the VP of Costco because we had the land assigned and their developer dropped out of the picture. They said we are on the list and they have 30 they are building in Canada and Thunder Bay is probably going to be in a few years but they want to be here. I can’t speed up Costco but they have advised they want to be here and we are on their list.”
“Without small business we would collapse. If you look at May Street right now we have 5 new entrepreneurs that are developing that area. If we tear down Victoriaville and open up that street, which I am a proponent of, I think we will attract more business. The courthouse has helped the south ward as well. In the downtown North ward you can’t get a parking spot which I love, it is exciting times. ”
“ I would like to see Simpson Street developed and get the buildings full. There is great landscaping there. Small business is value added and I don’t think the public realizes how much they contribute to the
Jim Madder, President Confederation
“ I have been here for 6 years now and when I came here there was a pretty major affect with the decline of the forestry industry. In the last six years I have seen a reconfiguration including some rebirth of forestry but a huge change to our area has happened such as medical devices and computer programming. Our graduates are doing well. It is below the radar but we are supporting other parts of the world.The economy is certainly growing.”
“I am optimistic because of diversification in the economy. There is no home run in the economy but the analogy of bunts, base hits and maybe doubles- those things working together all help and we are not
dependent on one thing. Forestry and mining are still very important.”
“Here at the college we have some new construction underway. We are tearing down the Conmee building which has had great service over the last 40 years but is was a temporary building that was used for 40 years. All of our buildings were being heated by electricity so it cost a lot.
The current Fitness Centre situation has changed after the current Sports Dome came down. We were going to take the building down but were approached to use it for soccer now. The money we have used to operate the facility has to go into the new building and so if it is going to stay up someone else has to pay for those bills. We’ll see what happens. In January it is so expensive to heat.”