By Jeff Lehman
Mayor, City of Barrie
Special to BCA Annual Report
According to Statistics Canada’s 2012 Canadian Business Patterns data, construction is Simcoe County’s largest employment sector and is therefore vitally important to Barrie’s economic growth and sustainability. The Barrie Construction Association (BCA) plays an important role in not only helping to educate, inform and connect the local construction community, but also to help foster the city’s relationship with this essential sector of our workforce.
Recent attention has been given to Barrie’s growth in the data warehousing and security sector, HGS call centre announcement, and mixed-use condominium developments in the city centre, but small business is really the fabric of Barrie’s economy. Barrie’s entire business culture is dominated by entrepreneurs and small businesses, and the local construction industry fits the trend with the majority of construction businesses in the area employing less than five employees. Associations such as the BCA play an invaluable role for small businesses that may not otherwise have access to the information, education and communications required to run a successful business.
Staying on top of technology gives companies a competitive advantage, and this is no different in the construction industry, with continuous advancements in technologies and processes to improve efficiencies and reduce construction product waste. The BCA’s education programs help keep local construction companies up to date so that they can compete and they have; over the years Barrie’s construction industry has helped shape Barrie into a modern urban centre with all the amenities necessary for families to migrate to for work, to live, and to enjoy a prosperous lifestyle. The local construction industry will continue to guide the city’s growth as the annexed lands to the south become ready for future development projects.
The economy is still recovering from the financial decline of a few years ago and the local construction industry is a vital player, helping to bring new life to the city through construction projects, large and small. It is not only the multi-million dollar development projects that make an impact; everything from small storefront facade improvements, to landscaping and improving curb appeal help enrich Barrie’s image, ultimately assisting us to attract new businesses, visitors, and residents.
A notable example is the outdoor patio program in our city centre. Starting with just a few restaurants last summer, Dunlop St. is now completely transformed with designer patios for the summer, creating a revived atmosphere. These types of construction upgrade projects are contagious and as the economy continues to strengthen, more and more businesses will see the value of investing in building upgrades and improvements.
With many large municipal infrastructure projects completed during the past couple of years, including a new surface water treatment plant, the restoration of the historic Allandale Train Station, and expansions and upgrades at our Lake Simcoe Regional Airport, to mention a few, the city will focus on some smaller but much needed road and infrastructure improvements through to 2014. On the larger scale, the new transit plan will see multiple transit hubs throughout the city to provide improved service, and the Waterfront and Marina Strategic Plan will transform some of the city’s outdoor spaces, including an elaborate new Memorial Square design, to help improve connectivity between the waterfront and downtown.
Barrie has grown significantly over the years, as has the local construction industry. Keeping pace with the latest construction advances, and helping to fuel the local economy. The City of Barrie looks forward to a continued relationship with the Barrie Construction Association and its members as Barrie moves forward with managed growth within the current built up boundary and the new annexed lands.