City of Oshawa
A short trip east of Toronto, the City of Oshawa as described by Mayor John Henry is one that has experienced a tremendous renaissance. Oshawa has evolved into a four-pillar economic community with a significant presence in the advanced manufacturing, health sciences, transportation, and education sectors.
Elected mayor in 2010, Henry emphasizes customer service at Oshawa City Hall. Approachable and open for business, the City of Oshawa understands the importance of making its community the best possible for its citizens. The City continues to build on effective measures that attract business, investment, and job creation within its community, and has swung the pendulum to customer service for residents of Oshawa.
“We’re changing the way we do customer service at the City, making it easier to do business,” Henry told The Canadian Business Journal. “The message has now gotten out, and we have several great, exciting projects under development right now. We’re talking hundreds of millions of dollars of projects that are going on now or will be in the not too distant future.
“It is a privilege being Mayor, but it is about coming from my private sector life to a public life and applying those business principles to a publically-run corporation. We’re changing the way we look at customer service, we’re working very hard to bring a different level of customer service, and we’re doing business on residents’ time. We deal with the frontline services that affect the day-to-day lives of residents, whether it is the fire department or garbage pickup, and it’s exciting that there is a true change in the delivery of City services. The City of Oshawa is a customer-service oriented business.”
The City of Oshawa recognizes the need for high densities on its major arterials and has made a significant effort in recent years to implement this plan. Additionally, the city has transformed many of its vacant lots into in-fill developments, including areas of the downtown core. One example is a reclaimed brownfield that is being refurbished as a retail commercial centre. It includes the former General Motors North plant redeveloped as a Costco Wholesale location plus a new Canada Post Distribution Centre.
“It’s exciting to drive downtown and see the construction that is taking place,” Henry said. “Nowadays in downtown Oshawa, you see upward of 60 restaurants, a major sports venue in our General Motors Centre (home to the Ontario Hockey League’s Oshawa Generals and the National Basketball League’s Oshawa Power), as well as the converted Regent Theatre that is used for University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) lecture space and to host community events.”
With a population of 154,000, the City of Oshawa is home to three university campuses, including UOIT, Trent University, Queen’s University as well as Durham College.
The local community combines urban and rural amenities, with plenty of green space like parks and walking trails, a beautiful waterfront, and an affordable housing offering that brings families to Oshawa. Henry summarized, “The city is growing, it’s a vibrant community, and we can give you those great dreams of affordable home ownership.”
A hub for manufacturing and known as the Automotive Capital of Canada, General Motors remains a major employer for the City of Oshawa and the surrounding Durham Region. As Henry described, “We are a centre of automotive excellence. General Motors still makes cars and they make some of the best cars in the world. What makes Oshawa stand out is the Automotive Centre of Excellence (ACE) at UOIT. This state-of-the-art research facility has a climatic wind tunnel that can replicate desert heat, wind storms, and extreme temperatures that cannot be done anywhere else in the world. The ACE capabilities bring the next generation of automotive research to the world stage.
Quality of Life
A lifelong resident of Oshawa, Henry and his family enjoy the local community and the many attractions that give Oshawa its exceptional quality of life.
Moving forward, the goal for the City of Oshawa is to continue growing the community as an attractive place to work and live for families both old and new. In fact it’s not uncommon for young people attending post-secondary schools in Oshawa to grow an appreciation for the community and later decide to stay in Oshawa for their working life, because it is a great place to live.
“We try to develop what I think is the key to any community – and that’s hope,” Henry concluded. “Hope is about creating jobs. The future is the youth of our country. This is truly the best county in the world and we can do great things. We have the smartest minds and we can do anything.”