Sector Focus – The Power of Four
Tiny and Tay Townships have been agricultural communities since the earliest settlers in this region, and they continue to live and promote the farming culture, even as the farming business evolves toward a greater degree of specialty and catering to healthier lifestyles. Still, there remains much opportunity to enhance the value of the crops and livestock, and add further value through agricultural supplies, services and processing.
Data from the Statistics Canada Census of Agriculture was analyzed for North Simcoe indicating that the Townships of Tay and Tiny have 207 farms, with the top five categories being (1) beef cattle ranching and farming including feedlots, (2) hay farming, (3) horse and other equine production, (4) nursery and tree production, and (5) dairy cattle and milk production.
As with all of Canada feed production and basic livestock production are sold into the global commodity markets; hence, they are heavily subject to cyclic influences and tremendous economic pressure on prices. Distance to market is an impediment to agri-business interests because of the greater costs and delays associated with transporting goods and livestock the extra distance. The smaller size of North Simcoe producers, as compared with southern Ontario and western producers, also has profound impact on economies of scale. For this reason, North Simcoe agri-business will benefit greatly from a strong differentiator in its products, leading players to focus on specialty or niche production. To that end the EDCNS has initiated a fibre processing plant opportunity which was presented to the agriculture community and producers on February 19, 2015 with strong support. A transportation/fibre crop rotation feasibility study is scheduled for April to June 2015 for further analysis of the opportunities.
EDCNS will focus on developing our agricultural assets for greater economic output, potentially taking advantage of agri-tourism (more commonly associated with wine tours and dude ranches), specialty crops destined for affluent markets, or packaged foodstuffs. These are only examples, as the detailed analysis has yet to be completed.
The North Simcoe agriculture is a strong supporter of the community. Over a 14 year period the North Simcoe G.R.A.I.N. project raised over $1 million in sales when matched by Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) added $5 million in emergency food aid to the community.
Advanced manufacturing is tied to the well-established base of small and medium-sized successful manufacturing facilities spread throughout the region and, despite the dramatic loss of jobs in the aftermath of the global financial crisis, it remains our largest single employer. While the economic downturn caused some local manufacturing to head south or close its doors completely, there remains a critical mass of innovative manufacturers, many focused on high-quality precision products, that forms the nexus of a strong network of suppliers and markets. When combined with the skilled resource pool, the proximity of a key trade school in the heart of the region (Georgian College, Midland campus), and the availability of zoned and developed industrial lands and even some vacant industrial buildings, the region has some strengths to bring to bear on advanced manufacturing. It is a critical component of the overall North Simcoe economy, bringing in significant revenues from outside the region.
Manufacturers must be able to move goods, and the close proximity of Highway 400 (accessible primarily via highways 12 and 93) provides the primary transportation corridor for both supplies and finished product. For more time-sensitive shipments, Huronia Airport has a 4000-foot asphalt runway along with support services ranging from aircraft manufacturing to aviation fuel and pilot training.
The North Simcoe area has many specialized and multinational manufacturers and continues to attract new businesses to the cluster.
Healthcare is a rapidly expanding sector, and even more so in North Simcoe given its aging population. In response to these demographic changes, North Simcoe is building on its comprehensive healthcare infrastructure, which includes two significant anchors; namely the internationally recognized Waypoint Centre for Mental Health and the Georgian Bay General hospital (GBGH).
The Waypoint Centre for Mental Health Care is a 301-bed psychiatric hospital providing acute and long-term psychiatric services to Simcoe County, Dufferin County and Muskoka/Parry Sound as well as being the province’s only maximum-security forensic hospital.
Georgian Bay General Hospital (GBGH) is a 105-bed general hospital that services the entire region, including a seasonal population that more than triples the off-season total.
Working closely with these key organizations is a network of healthcare service providers and professionals dedicated to making North Simcoe a recognized centre of health and well-being:
- The Chigamik CHC, pioneering holistic services for our three cultural communities including First Nations, French and English communities.
- A campus of Georgian College, graduating healthcare service professionals in a variety of disciplines.
- Eight seniors residences and long-term care facilities, including the state of the art Georgian Village.
- A collaborative community of healthcare professionals, occupational therapists, denturists, ophthalmologists, chiropractors to name but a few.
Why invest in North Simcoe healthcare? Lifestyle and demand:
North Simcoe is situated in the Heart of Georgian Bay and the beauty and wholeness of the area creates a lifestyle second to none.
North Simcoe has been identified as an area set to experience significant population growth (Places to Grow) and is gifted with a high proportion of seniors with 29% of the area’s residents are over sixty years old (Statistics Canada, Census of Population, 2011). The demand for new services, which respond to our aging population and compliment our current assets, are countless. The distance from major population centers for North Simcoe’s residents highlights the business opportunity while responding to the growing needs of the residents.
The beauty and accessibility of the south-eastern shores of Georgian Bay are among the area’s most important natural assets to tourism. In the western portion, expansive sandy beaches lie on the fringes of virtually untouched islands and peninsulas, while the rugged Precambrian Shield emerges from the waters of Georgian BayIslandsNational Park in the east. The most southerly of the 30,000 Islands populate this part of Georgian Bay, and are surrounded by crystal-clear, protected waters. In wintertime, the region is interlaced with groomed snowmobile and snowshoeing trails, while the frozen bay provides wide-open stretches of ice, supporting fishing huts and more trails for snowmobiling. Just a few weeks after the ice clears, the rivers, bays, sounds and channels are filled with the sights and sounds of summer cottagers, water sports aficionados and recreational boaters. In autumn, our forests yield a spectacular palette of fall colours that attract visitors from near and far. With this natural recreation asset at our feet and a history of visitors dating back several generations, fostering regional tourism is a clear priority.
Unlike the other three pillars of economic development, the distance to population centres is actually of strong benefit to tourism because North Simcoe is one of the most accessible areas of “cottage country” to critical markets in southern Ontario and beyond. Furthermore, North Simcoe offers far more than traditional “cottage country” experiences. In addition to Georgian Bay being a “water playground” for visitors and seasonal residents alike, the region boasts a wealth of cultural assets, including some world-class historic sites. These features combine to create an exciting tourism destination that offers a host of rich experiences for tourists.
As may be evident from the logo prominently displayed at the top of this page, development of the Tourism pillar is well ahead of our other three industry verticals. The launch of the brand was marked by a well-attended event on January 22, 2015, accompanied by the first steps in the GOgbay.ca marketing campaign. The road has also been paved for creation of a full Destination Marketing Organisation in 2015 with municipal and EDCNS buy-in as well as ownership of www.gbay.ca.
Developing a cultural map and plan for the area’s cultural assets, thereby extending the work that has been done by the Town of Midland, would clarify the picture and help cement a success strategy. The greatest weakness at this time is the lack of sufficient “destination” attractions to draw visitors to the area for more than an afternoon or weekend.