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Times they are a changin’

cartoon_mar92016The Conference Board of Canada has some bittersweet news for Oshawa.

If General Motors and its assembly plant were to leave the city, the local economy would continue to grow. That’s according to one of the board’s chief economists, Alan Arcand, who says that while the plant closure would certainly have a big impact on the local economy – nobody can argue with that – but that other facets of the economy would be able to offset it.

This is because, wisely, the Oshawa economy is not based solely on one big-ticket item. While the manufacturing sector does make up a sizeable portion of money flowing into the city – approximately 10 per cent – it isn’t nearly as much as it was in decades past. In 1987, that number was closer to a third. If the plant were to have closed 30 years ago, the results would have been disastrous.

One need look no further than the former manufacturing hub of Flint, Michigan. The city, which during its peak was about the size of Oshawa, was the hub of auto manufacturing in America in the early 20th century and for decades onward saw nothing but growth because of it. With that came a population boom, going from 13,103 in 1900 to 38,550 in 1910 to 91,599 in 1920. At its peak, there were nearly 200,000 people living in Flint.

However, once manufacturing pulled out of the city, the local economy that relied so much on it began to suffer, with urban decay, depopulation and growing crime rates coming with it. The city has declared two financial emergencies since 2002, and is now in the midst of a water contamination crisis.

Thankfully, Oshawa has made the right decision in not putting all of its eggs in one basket, especially now because there’s a chance one of those eggs may break by the end of the year.

Now, the city needs to be sure that the rest of the economy can keep going strong in that event, and keep the city growing and prospering.