By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express
The Oshawa area will be one of the fastest growing economies in 2017, topping the list alongside Windsor in the Conference Board of Canada’s latest Metropolitan Outlook report.
Among 15 cities included in the report, Oshawa and Windsor are expected to see the highest amount of growth throughout the rest of 2017 with both economies expected to expand by 2.5 per cent in 2017, meaning more development, more money, and hopefully more jobs.
In the Oshawa area, the construction sector, bolstered by several non-residential projects, is expected to increase its output by 3.6 per cent, making it one of the region’s top performers. Oshawa is also seeing growth in education, healthcare and personal service sectors.
With that said, the report states the city’s 9.2 per cent bump in local job growth in 2016 will taper off and the labour market will see a slight reversal this year.
In terms of manufacturing, the sector will see a slight increase of 1.1 per cent. The gains are attributed to the more than $400 million invested by General Motors into the Oshawa Assembly Plant and the addition of a second shift to the Flex Plant that could bring 500 additional jobs next year.
For Mayor John Henry, the latest figures come as no surprise, as it’s the result of work and development that has been ongoing for a number of years.
“This one here really shows that council and staff and the residents and the business community have all come together and we’re winning,” Mayor Henry says. “We’ve actually helped change the economy of this community, it’s really quite exciting.”
That diversification comes in the form of a shift toward advanced manufacturing and the impacts of Oshawa’s trio of post-secondary institutions on the emergence of a sector complimented by General Motors.
“General Motors is still continuing to produce lots of great cars here in our community, but we’ve been able to diversify with Durham College and UOIT and Trent and the investment that they’ve made in this community and the money they spend,” Mayor Henry says. “We’re more than a car community, we’re in advanced manufacturing, healthcare, education and we have a great transportation hub in the port, the airport and some of the companies that ship from this city.”
With the increased growth comes more people and increased pressure on council to ensure the city’s services and infrastructure can hold up under the pressure.
“It’s always a challenge to navigate this, but I don’t see any additional cost to the ratepayers,” says Mayor Henry. “I think the growth that you’re seeing has been ongoing for the last few years and we’ve met the needs of this community with our existing staff.”
The potential influx of people is actually the most exciting part for the mayor.
“People always had this negative look towards Oshawa that I could never understand,” he says. “Now you’re seeing businesses and people from around the world choosing to live in this community, to work in this community, to raise their families in this community and I think that’s the sign of success of this council.”