by Deron Johnston
As part of a presentation to council at Tuesday’s Committee of the Whole meeting on the municipality’s updated Economic Development Marketing Plan, Tom Graham, of T D Graham & Associates, shared some information on job growth provided by the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.
Since 2010, just over 1,000 full time permanent jobs have been created in North Grenville. Yes, you read that right. This job growth was broken down into the following: retail – 13%; service – 13%; healthcare – 9%; building/trades/trucking – 9%; professional/technical – 6%; financial/real estate – 3%; and ‘other’ 47%. As you can see, not all of the job growth is in minimum wage jobs, which is frequently what happens when an expansion of corporate big box retail shopping takes place as we’ve seen (and will continue to see) here in North Grenville. This is fantastic news. This type of positive story is very rare in today’s economic climate, especially in Eastern Ontario. This is also an indicator that the current efforts and direction by the municipal Economic Development Department are having a positive impact.
Some people think that the biggest indicator of positive economic growth is measured by the number of new large businesses that move into town. Case in point could be the Giant Tiger facility that is going to be built just outside of Prescott. There is a belief that the municipality should have done more to try to bring that operation here because of the number of jobs that it would create. However, there are some points to consider when thinking that we need to attract these types of large operations or businesses.
For example, the Giant Tiger warehouse is actually a relocation and expansion of an existing facility. During the recent Leeds Grenville Economic Development Summit, Giant Tiger stated that most of the employees for the facility will be coming from Ottawa, where they are currently working in those jobs. They couldn’t say with any certainty how many new jobs will be created by the move. As a matter of fact, because of the new technology that will be used in the new facility, it may require existing employees to move to other jobs within the facility that otherwise might be filled by new employees. There will be short term employment benefits to the area through trades jobs in the construction of the facility, but there may not be much direct permanent job growth. It could be argued that the real benefit to the area will be if all of these Ottawa employees move there and buy homes. North Grenville would be a logical place for these employees to move to, as it’s perfectly placed between where they’ll work and Ottawa (where their social lives, friends and family are). If this happens, it’ll become critical to convince these new arrivals to spend their money locally.
Having a diverse job market and business community is much more secure and sustainable, simply by being less vulnerable to major financial events, or corporate decisions that sometimes cripple areas whose economies are built around a small number of large businesses, or only one type of industry or sector. This is very problematic for areas where industries are natural resource based. They can be very vulnerable to fluctuating world market prices (Alberta and oil is a great example). As another, more local, example, look at areas like Belleville and Brockville, whose local economies were significantly impacted by the large loss of jobs at their local Procter and Gamble facilities. If one of these large employers moves to town, it’s a positive, at least at first. But integrating these large employers with other diverse businesses that aren’t dependent on their ‘big brother’ is a must.
Not to be forgotten in all of this talk of job growth, is research from OMAFRA that states that, in rural Ontario, as much as 80% of job growth actually comes from the expansion and success of local existing businesses. This helps to explain why the local job growth has maybe flown under the radar of most people. It’s unfortunate, but a number of small businesses, each adding a few jobs over time, doesn’t make the headlines or capture people’s attention quite like the appearance of a Giant Tiger would. This good news also seems to further underline the importance of continuing to support local businesses by spending your money locally. It may mean that someone you know who’s unemployed, gets that newly created job.