Economy of ‘resilient’ city set to grow. The university’s continued expansion into the downtown and an agreement with the federal government that will finally allow Oshawa to develop its waterfront are among a long list of triumphs that reflect the city’s true character in the face of a global economic downturn, Oshawa Mayor John Gray says. “Far too many people predicted that 2009 was going to be a disastrous year for the City of Oshawa … however (it) defined our city as one that is resilient and that we alone determine our own fate,” Gray said in his 7th Annual State of the City address. “There will be more exciting news to come forward this year … We will rebuild and revitalize our city.”
The rousing address was delivered to business owners, politicians and City staff at a breakfast hosted by the Greater Oshawa Chamber of Commerce on February 18 at Tosca Banquet Hall in Oshawa.
Gray kicked things off by referencing a Conference Board of Canada report that benchmarks what makes cities attractive to skilled workers and a mobile population. The City of Oshawa was ranked last of 50 cities, but the report’s methodology was based on 2006 census data – and much has changed in that time, the Mayor reminded. Earlier this year, the Board predicted Oshawa’s economy would grow by 3.2% annually for the next three years – one of the highest growth predictions for any Canadian municipality.
Last year, the City issued 1,040 building permits representing more than $320 million in development. “In the midst of a global recession, the seventh highest amount of investments was made in our city, demonstrating that Oshawa is indeed growing,” Gray noted.
The City’s loyalty to manufacturing is paying dividends, the Mayor reported, pointing to its faith in General Motors of Canada. In addition to the Camaro, the Buick Regal and Cadillac will be manufactured in Oshawa and a second shift that will bring 700 workers back from layoffs has been announced. Further, CEVA Logistics will move into a section of the truck plant, creating 110 new jobs.
The Mayor also trumpeted the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) continued expansion. Its Automotive Centre of Excellence is nearing completion and promises to attract cutting-edge research and development opportunities. “Existing firms and new ventures are lining up at the gate just to be within proximity of this facility,” Gray said.
The City’s downtown is also reaping the rewards of UOIT’s expansion plans. The university has acquired the Regent Theatre, which will operate as a lecture hall by day and theatre by evening. Its back parking lot is being converted into a facility that will accommodate the Faculty of Criminology, Justice and Policy Studies – a stone’s throw from the newly-opened Durham Consolidated Courthouse. UOIT has also taken out a 30-year lease on the vacant Algers Press building adjacent to the General Motors Centre.
Trent University, meanwhile, will establish a campus next to the Oshawa Civic, which is being repurposed into a year-round soccer and lacrosse facility. “The Trent announcement solidifies the fact that Oshawa is now a hub of leading-edge post-secondary education,” said Gray. “How many cities do you know that offer two universities and a college?”
A recent agreement with the federal government could finally spell progress at the waterfront, he reported. While details still need to be finalized, an attractive waterfront that incorporates a variety of uses is “imminent,” Gray promised.
“People will be living on our waterfront. People will be shopping and eating at our waterfront. Recreationalists will be accessing Lake Ontario from the shores of Oshawa again. For the first time in 40 years, the people of Oshawa can get excited (about) what will be offered at our waterfront, what will return to our waterfront and what was never imagined for our waterfront.”
The Chamber gave the Mayor’s message its stamp of approval. “What a difference a year makes,” says President John Walker. “We’re hearing very positive news on all fronts…The Chamber is a proactive organization that works on behalf of the business community and with the City of Oshawa and organizations like our university and college. Now we stand to benefit from those efforts.”