The City of Owen Sound
The City of Owen Sound offers businesses and entrepreneurs the perks of scenic neighborhood living while providing the advanced infrastructure and economic opportunities found in larger urban centres. With a prime location at southern shores of Georgian Bay and a CMA population of over 32,000, Owen Sound is a municipality that truly does hold boundless opportunities for all.
Where Businesses Grow
Since the municipality’s establishment in 1851, Owen Sound has been a city of innovation. The area’s major ports quickly granted Owen Sound the nickname, “The Chicago North.” These ports gave the city easy access to the upper Great Lakes, and many major rail lines located nearby. Later, the advent of the 400 series highways allowed Owen Sound to develop into a regional centre with easy access to the Greater Toronto Area.
Today, Owen Sound is the largest urban community in the Grey and Bruce counties, representing a combined commercial market of over 158,000. It currently houses over 1800 businesses, a significant number of these are self-employed, self-operated companies. Yet the City’s true economic strength lies in the diversification of its economy.
Although the overall manufacturing sector in Canada is in a decline, Owen Sound has managed to overcome this trend. Manufacturing continues to be one of the largest sectors of the city’s economy, with industry employment rates increasing by 19% between 2010 and 2014; the easy access to a variety of transportation types, stable local labour force and available service support manufacturers.
Global firms such as Tenneco Automotive and Transcontinental Printing have chosen to locate within Owen Sound’s borders. The city also houses a number of small-to-medium sized companies like Troy Sprinklers, AKA Consulting or MacLean Engineering. Commercial location opportunities exist on both the east and west side of the City. Construction and land development specialists have also been drawn to Owen Sound in recent years, with three major condo developments currently underway in the downtown core.
High seasonal tourism numbers bring peak economic levels to the City of Owen Sound during the spring and summer months. Nature-lovers can choose from a variety of hiking trails and scenic parks. Art lovers can visit the City’s numerous art galleries, theatre, or symphony. History Buffs come to explore the many unique museums and heritage homes.
“Tourism is certainly a large part of Owen Sound’s culture. We’ve noticed a great increase here recently, especially when it comes to pedestrian traffic. Visitors from southern Ontario including Kitchener/Waterloo and Greater Toronto Area love to stroll through our downtown,” notes Steve Furness, Manager of Economic Development and Tourism for the City of Owen Sound.
The municipality lies at the foot of the Bruce Peninsula, placing it within a UNESCO world biosphere reserve. Owen Sound is also only a 25-minute drive away from Sauble Beach, the second longest freshwater beach in the world. Blue Mountain Resort rests less than 45-minutes away from the city’s border on the east side.
Owen Sound’s downtown core acts as a location for creative thinkers to start and grow their smaller size businesses. The city opened its Business Enterprise Centre in the heart of the downtown core. Here, entrepreneurs and small business owners can find assistance and access a variety of tools and resources to help them develop their business ideas.
The Business Enterprise Centre works in partnership between the City of Owen Sound and the Ministry of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure. It facilitates a number of small provincial business support programs, including the Starter Company program, the Student Summer Company Program, and a variety of business-related events and seminars. The BEC also coordinates in Grey-Bruce. The Ontario Self Employment Benefit Program assists E.I. eligible, unemployed individuals to create their own business.
“We truly are fortunate to have such a diverse economy,” Owen Sound’s Mayor Deborah Haswell tells CBJ in an August 2014 interview, “We’re not a one-industry town. The range of different sizes and types of businesses allows us to grow and develop despite changes in the overall economic landscape.”
Embracing Canada’s Economic Future
One of the greatest advantages for entrepreneurs in Owen Sound is the municipality’s ability to embrace and foster new ideas. Noting the global economic trend towards online and mobile business, Owen Sound has positioned itself as a hub with high-speed Internet and free Wi-Fi hot spots.
“The people who come to and live in Owen Sound are extremely innovative,” explains Mayor Haswell, “the ‘Creative Class’ – the inventors, artists, and entrepreneurs – they see the advantages of locating here.”
“These things have happened in our community very quickly, but we realized the opportunity we have to allow innovators to yield the best profit. Those who take advantage of these opportunities have the chance to be the most successful,” Haswell adds.
Cities that embrace an opportunity to become ‘mobile business centres’, often become those at the leading edge of technological innovation.
As best put by Furness, “Owen Sound is a city where people choose to live. There are great opportunities for success without being forced to live in busy cities with lots of traffic. The people that live here can pursue their career dreams while also enjoying their leisure time.”
The City of Owen Sound is certainly a municipality on the way to tremendous success. The City is currently undertaking a variety of economic and cultural development projects in order to facilitate sustainable, long-term growth.
The city recently completed construction on the Julie McArthur Regional Recreation Centre, a facility built in partnership with the YMCA. It is also currently completing a new state-of-the-art waste water treatment facility to better serve its growing residential and business populations. With high speed internet available throughout the area, small businesses have access to the world within an incredible natural setting.
“We recognize that our industry and commercial locations have a huge market draw both in terms of kilometres and population,” says Furness, “The natural beauty and geographic advantage causes us to be a centre-point for the region. It’s how the community started, and it’s how we’re going to grow.”
Owen Sound is a recognized recipient of the Prince of Wales prize for Municipal Heritage Leadership, awarded by Prince Charles. In 2012, MSN Money ranked Owen Sound as the ‘Best Place to Retire’ in Canada. As the City develops, it will continue to foster the sense of community that draws in both residents and businesses that seek an ideal balance between work and leisure.
“Owen Sound’s tagline is ‘Where You Want to Live,’ says Mayor Haswell, “Now, we’ve become so much more than this. Owen Sound is where you want to live, where you want to work, and where you want to stay.”