Boom times come to Guelph

February 10, 2016

GuelphIf you’ve been putting off telling your boss what you really think of him or her, this might finally be your chance to let it all hang out.

There’s probably never been a better time in our city’s history to be out hunting for a new job. It’s true: Guelph’s unemployment rate sits at a tiny 4.2 per cent, one of the lowest rates in the country. We had job growth of more than nine per cent in December compared to a year earlier.

Our employment rate sits at 72 per cent, the absolute best in Canada. Nowhere else in this frozen land are a greater proportion of a city’s residents gainfully employed. No wonder BMO’s economists rank Guelph as the top labour market in the country, based on the most recent Statistics Canada numbers.

“Guelph tops the list with robust job growth, population inflows, a puny 4.2-per-cent jobless rate and the highest share of the population that is working,” BMO senior economist Robert Kavcic said in a recent report.

These are good times in the local economy, and we should be enjoying it. Suddenly, somehow, Guelph has become a refreshing, stable alternative to the boom-and-bust appeal of places like Fort McMurray, without the pickup trucks and crack-cocaine addiction (not that we don’t have drug problems here).

This week, the Globe and Mail christened Guelph “Canada’s jobs powerhouse,” which probably surprised most Canadians. Sure, we’re still a just city of under 130,000, but there’s nothing wrong with puffing out our chest a little bit, and bragging about what’s happening here.

With an official plan to add as many as 50,000 more people within city limits by 2031, and incoming housing for 9,000 new residents in our growing core, Guelph’s leaders can be forgiven if they’re feeling good about our future.

Signs of the boom are all around us. Help wanted signs are everywhere, and new businesses are popping up all over the place. Condo projects are reshaping the city, house prices are climbing and we’re seeing more and more in-fill development.

If you’ve been paying attention, the roots of the job growth have been in place for a while. As a university town, we’ve long been buffered from the usual downturns that might effect neighbouring cities in Ontario. The University of Guelph provides a steady supply of jobs, renters and consumption that is generally pretty recession-proof.

But when it comes to jobs, we’re more than just a one-horse town.

We’ve got a growing agri-business and biotechnology cluster that employs thousands and is second only to manufacturing in terms of its local economic clout. Manufacturing, of course, is still king, employing about one in four people working in Guelph.

Linamar Corp., the city’s largest employer, has been one of Guelph’s best growth stories of the past decade. A year ago, Linamar’s chief Linda Hasenfratz announced a plan to add another 1,200 local manufacturing jobs over the next decade, adding to the roughly 6,900 people it already employs here.

Then there’s the rising local tech scene, thanks to our lucky position between the tech corridor of Waterloo Region and Toronto. There’s a burgeoning environmental technology sector here, too, with companies planning ambitious hiring binges.

It all adds up to diverse growth coming from different areas of the economy, which is always good news for cities.

So if you’ve been dying to go tell your boss what you really think, this might be your time. Your prospects for finding another job in Guelph look pretty good.

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