Whitby, known as Durham’s Business Centre, is a growing town of approximately 134,000 people that is projected to reach a population of almost 200,000 by 2031. The family-friendly town, which regularly wins Community in Bloom awards, is in the eastern part of the GTA just a 30-minute drive from downtown Toronto. Having just celebrated its 160th anniversary, the Town is also known as the “community of choice” and “a great place to live, work and play.”
“Whitby is a great looking town – very attractive, very green. We are a well-to-do and well managed town. The reason we’re going to grow so quickly is that a lot of people want to live here,” says Mayor Don Mitchell.
Goals for responsible growth
Although Whitby is growing quickly, the Town recognizes the importance of maintaining a well-planned community. Whitby Council has unanimously adopted eight goals that define the kind of town Council wants to build based on its strongest assets. Whitby has the good fortune of two genuine, unique, historic downtowns – downtown Brooklin and Downtown Whitby.
Council has developed a waterfront plan to help realize the full potential of Whitby’s charming lakeshore, which boasts a publicly-owned recreational marina, yacht club, parks, beaches, trails and conservation areas.
“The Council goals emphasize our need to be business and investment friendly and to continuously improve our services. In addition to that, the Council is taking an active role in defining the quality of our community. We see ourselves as not only the place to live for families but also as the place to live for seniors and young job creators, and a destination for visitors. We’re very focused on the economic benefits of quality of place,” states Mayor Mitchell.
“In downtown Whitby, we’ve taken two important Town-owned parcels of land and put them out for an Expression of Interest from the development community to attract a major supportive investment there. We envision this containing commercial retail attractors on the bottom floor and residential above. We see that as a catalyst for downtown revitalization,” Mayor Mitchell elaborates.
The community of choice
“The residents who grew up in Whitby, or who came to Whitby because of the quality of life, have a true sense of belonging because they can relate to the heritage, the history and the fact that we have identifiable downtowns. This gives us a sense of place and belonging,” remarks Peter LeBel, the Town’s Commissioner of Community and Marketing Services.
Staying true to that sense of community, the Council is focused on keeping Whitby attractive to all residents.“Council is determined to build a complete, walkable and sustainable town that people will be proud of and want to live in. Getting development to come here is easy. It’s using that market energy to build a complete community – that’s the hard job,” says Mayor Mitchell.
For example, in response to residential demand in west Whitby, near the link to Highways 401 and 407, Council planned residential areas, but designated employment and industrial lands right beside them and ensured those lands would be service-ready.
“We insisted that the developers service the industrial lands concurrently with the residential lands. That means we’ll have a wide variety of serviced employment lands ready to go. We‘ll do the same in the Brooklin community, so you don’t end up with lands that are designated for jobs, yet have no road or servicing access. What we’re going to do is create the conditions for success,” Mayor Mitchell explains.
Whitby is a diverse town with a variety of business opportunities in several sectors. The Town contains advanced manufacturing facilities, logistics and distribution centres, consulting and engineering firms, government services, and a large health sector. Companies in all fields, such as AECOM, Golder Associates, BMW, Makita, Sony, Gerdau and Patheon, have chosen to operate facilities in Whitby.
Moreover, many software companies have offices in Whitby, and the clean technology industry is growing in the Town. To encourage technology-based businesses and entrepreneurs, the Spark Centre has a location in downtown Whitby. The Spark Centre is a non-profit organization that provides technology commercialization services to businesses in Ontario’s Durham Region and Northumberland County.
Durham College has partnered with dLAB, the Durham Learning and Business District, to develop an employment area adjacent to the Whitby Campus, ideally suited for the creative economy. Innovation and education are important to the Town, which has an active Youth Council and received the designation five years ago for being a platinum youth-friendly community.
“We’re proud of that and we’re reapplying for that designation now,” says Mayor Mitchell.
Whitby is a great sports town. The Iroquois Park Sports Centre is the largest municipally-owned sports complex in Canada. Right next door is Abilities Centre, a cutting-edge accessible sports complex which will host Parapan Am Games’ events.
With the abundance of opportunities the Town has in all fields, the possibilities are endless for entrepreneurs and investors looking to do business in Whitby.
A professional approach to government
Why has the Town been so successful? One reason is the professional attitude deeply ingrained in the Council and the Corporation.
“Whitby has always had a strong, responsible, professional approach to government. I’ve been on Council for many years – over 20 – and we have no taxpayer-funded debt at all. All Mayors and Councils have taken a very responsible and professional approach that extends into everything we do. When you come into Whitby, whether it’s to do business or anything else with our municipality, you can count on professional, consistent service. People value that,” Mayor Mitchell states.
The practice of responsible financial management has certainly benefited the debt-free Town and made it an excellent place to live and invest. Close by in neighbouring Oshawa is a regional airport and regional harbour. Whitby has all the necessary infrastructure to support investments in its community at a competitive price.
“When you compare our industrial and office property values for business relative to jurisdictions in the western part of the GTA, our land is very well priced,” remarks Commissioner LeBel.
“Whitby is a premium community with great neighbourhoods. Everything is well managed. Programs are well run. As Mayor, I receive few complaints about our programs and services which reflects the great job that our staff do, and have done, for many years,” states Mayor Mitchell.
Whitby: the community of choice for families and business.