COVID-19 has been an extremely unpredictable year as far as how various industries have fared given the incredible changes we have experienced. Different sectors of the economy have been impacted differently by the pandemic, some sectors have experienced increases in demand and labour needs, while other sectors that are reliant upon gathering the general public as revenue sources have experienced more severe impacts. Manufacturing is generally at the same employment levels as before, and demand for construction as well as professional/technical services have added jobs. Retail, food and accommodation are still challenged within a restricted operational environment.
Although many of Barrie’s businesses have been severely impacted by the COVID-19 related economic shutdowns earlier this year, based on Statistics Canada Labour Market Survey, Barrie is one of only four urban areas in Canada who have a higher level of employment than before the pandemic.
As of August 2020, however, even with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, total building permit values were already surpassing year-end values for 2019 at approximately $258 M. With development construction still flourishing, 2020 should finish out as a solid year in terms of construction activity. Some of this recent construction activity is due to Barrie’s industrial market remaining strong and the recent industrial expansions, retrofits and new builds in the city’s South end. Even through the COVID-19 pandemic Barrie’s industrial sector has remained solid with some companies finding growth by pivoting their focus to produce pandemic related materials such as PPE and hand sanitizer.
Major infrastructure investments are in the planning stages or underway that will improve connectivity and traffic flow in employment areas including the Harvie Rd./Big Bay Point Rd Highway 400 Crossing expected to open to traffic in the Fall of 2020, The Dunlop Street: Kidd’s Creek Culvert Replacement looking at a 2022 completion date, and The Bryne Drive New Road project that supports the new Harvie Road/Big Bay Point Road Highway 400, a project anticipated to go to tender later this year.
Downtown Barrie is seeing revitalization come to life with the Dunlop Street improvements focusing on safe pedestrian movements and accessibility throughout the Dunlop Street corridor (Toronto St. to Mulcaster St.), as well as ensuring area businesses are better serviced through enhanced lighting, visibility and service opportunities. Dunlop Street is a vital component for attraction to downtown Barrie. This $13.1M project is transforming downtown and making it more accessible, pedestrian-friendly and attractive to residents and visitors. The first phase of construction took place on Dunlop St. (Poyntz to east of Owen) from August to November 2019. The entire project is scheduled to be completed in November 2020.
2020 is soon coming to a close, but the uncertainty of the future is still a reality all industries will have to contend with. Locally, our economy has shown resiliency through adaptation and collaboration, illustrated through our employment numbers, and I am confident that locally we will be able to tackle all future challenges successfully.