Metro Economics President Tim McCormack presented a population growth study before Council on Monday evening, as part of Shape the Sault’s Official Plan.
His study found that, since the mid 1970s, services have become more and more important in communities economically.
Some of these services include:
- Manufacturing sector
- Retail trade sector – higher jobs per capita ratio
- Health and social services sector – also has high ratio
- Arts, entertainment and recreation; and
- Government sector
The bottom line for Sault Ste. Marie and surrounding area, he said, is that 27 per cent of the jobs are economic drivers – and they’re more diversified than one may think.
This ratio is high compared to other communities, which are at 15 per cent.
“I feel very positive about the way things sit in this community,” he said in his presentation.
McCormack acknowledged the decline in manufacturing jobs in the community from 2001-2016, for various reasons.
However, he said service sector gains can be anticipated in future, thanks to an aging baby boomer population not only driving up healthcare jobs, but also creating job openings through retirement. The future for economy-based jobs looks positive as well, as most people in the community are over 50 and are going to stay here and use services, potentially creating more job growth.
“This is a very, very important economic driver for Sault Ste. Marie and the country as a whole,” he said.
McCormick suggests that in-migration will occur in this community in a way not seen in 20 years, bumping the population up to an estimated 83,300 by 2036 – a number not seen since 1981, when the Sault’s population was 83,700. He said he hopes that he’s under-predicting this estimate.
He said the economy is going to change – not necessarily as far as manufacturing, agriculture and mining jobs, which will continue to move community, as they are still important – but more so in services sector, such as healthcare, business, and education jobs, and estimates that technological advances will slow down the growth of government jobs. One thing he said the community could improve on is education.
After questions, and some skepticism, from Councillors Hilsinger, Vezeau-Allen, Dufour, Bruni, Shoemaker, Hollingsworth, Niro and Gardi, Mayor Provenzano made a statement saying, despite the speculation, everyone needs to be on board and behind this idea to make it a reality.
“I think an important thing that he said was it isn’t just going to happen. I mean it could happen, and we have to create the right environment and conditions for it to happen, but when I first read this report in full, I had the same intuitive response as I think a lot of people in our community did,” Provenzano said. “And I’d like to challenge that a bit. To me it seems very sensible, and I think that we have to be a lot more confident and ambitious and secure and not start from the position of ‘well that’s not going to happen here,’ or ‘why would that happen here?’ or ‘that doesn’t make sense that that would happen here.’ When we actually think about it, it’s incredibly sensible that it would happen here. We all live here because we want to live here, we live here because we’re proud to live here, and we live here because this is a great community to live in.”
One of the challenges we have, he said, is that “we haven’t communicated that to the degree that we are going to try and communicate that.”
“And I have a tremendous amount of confidence and faith that if we do communicate that, and we do build the environment that we can build just by supporting the current community partners and activities that we have going on, like education, it’s one (McCormack) pointed out where we could have significant growth, we will grow to this number,” he said.
Deputy CAO Tom Vair also quelled some concerns, ensuring that the city is working to make sure that young people are being trained for the jobs needed.
“The team is working on population growth as well as with the Economic Development Corporation on diversifying the (local) economy and creating jobs geared to the community.”
Council unanimously carried the motion to receive this presentation as information.