By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express
Drawing investment, trade and building up Oshawa’s already existing assets were key ideas in Mayor John Henry’s state of the city address delivered to a full room of business owners, council members and city staff at the Quality Hotel Inn and Suites on Feb. 18.
The lunch, put on by the Greater Oshawa Chamber of Commerce, gave Henry a chance to sing the city’s praises over the last year, including a record-breaking year for development permits, which saw the city sell more than $500 million in permits and break six building records. Oshawa recorded the greatest increase in average household net worth in all of Canada, rising by 11.2 per cent in 2013 according to Environics.
Oshawa also received other accolades last year, Henry states. A report by Coastal Economic Trust listed Oshawa as among the top 10 communities in Canada for new residents, seeing some of the highest net migration numbers in the country. Oshawa also ranked sixth in Ontario for entrepreneurial policy according to the Federation of Independent Business.
Henry was also on hand for 35 new business openings last year, he said.
“Three dozen new business openings in 2014 alone is impressive and it shows we have been successful in attracting jobs and business to our great city,” he said.
Looking ahead, Henry says the city needs to continue to work with its community partners, including the academic institutions located in the city.
The students these institutions bring in and the industries they attract will prove invaluable in the coming years, Henry adds.
Durham College has grown by 61 per cent over the last six years, bring in 30,000 students every year and UOIT’s enrolment has grown to 10,000 over 11 years.
“It works to transform our economy by helping our city become a centre of advanced manufacturing, energy sustainability and health-care innovation,” Henry said.
Looking to bolster Oshawa’s international reputation for trade, Henry mentioned the city will begin to develop the Oshawa Waterfront and Harbour Area Master Plan this year.
Recent developments at the Oshawa port, including the completed rail-spur and the work on the East Wharf, along with proximity to the Oshawa Municipal Airport and the 400-series highways, makes the port more accessible to world markets, Henry said.
Along with international markets, Henry talked about plans to support local businesses, as well including the city’s Business Ambassador Program and the Oshawa Connections Program, along with a $150,000 investment to the Sparks Centre over the next five years.
“I am much looking forward to the year ahead and the many new developments initiatives and collaborations that are planned and underway for our local economy,” Henry said.