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Numbers show Newmarket's poor job creation performance
March 12, 2015
By Chris Simon

Newmarket politicians should do some soul searching following the release last week of some surprisingly stagnant job growth numbers.

York Region released its employment and industry report for 2014 March 5. The 29-page document offers an analysis of job growth in the region and its member municipalities between 2009 and 2014.

During that time, the region outpaces the Greater Toronto Area, Ontario and Canada in terms of employment growth - York sits at compounded average annual growth of 2.98 per cent, ahead of the GTA (1.8), province (1.5) and nation (1.3).

In total, 77,000 jobs were created in the region. But here’s an amazing number: only 100 were in Newmarket. The town’s employment sector ranked last of the nine municipalities, only growing a compounded average annual rate of .03 per cent.

Mayor Tony Van Bynen disputes the figures. But even if you believe the region’s survey produced a statistical anomaly and was wildly off the mark, adding a few hundred more jobs to Newmarket’s employment totals still places the municipality near the bottom.

Of the nine region municipalities, Newmarket’s immediate neighbours actually led the way in employment growth, with East Gwillimbury and Aurora climbing at compounded average annual rates of 7.84 and 4.85 per cent, respectively.

These statistics need perspective and they’re far from a sign of pending doom. Newmarket is still one of Canada’s most livable communities and its total employment is estimated at 42,700 - enough jobs for 50 per cent of residents. The town also has a few long-term strategies under development, such as the gigabit corridor, the revitalization of Davis Drive and the continued promotion of Main Street. But there have been troubling warning signs in the past few years that should cause the town’s leadership to take a hard look at its existing economic development plan.

Flextronics outsourced several hundred jobs to Mexico last year, while Snap-On Tools Company left more than 100 people without work when its Harry Walker Industrial Parkway factory closed in 2011. The town also lost jobs after York Regional Police headquarters opened in Aurora. And, of course, there’s an ongoing threat of closure for many businesses affected by Davis construction.

Councillor Dave Kerwin recently called out YRT for running empty buses. Specifically, he noted the loss of several major manufacturers in the Harry Walker corridor as a root cause for a drop in ridership.

The town’s economic strategy was also criticized by Newmarket Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Debra Scott. She wants the municipality to hire another economic development officer, in an effort to attract and retain businesses. Scott said town consultants drafted an economic development implementation plan several years ago and the accompanying report noted resources in that area were “severely constrained”.

Obviously, some of these issues are out of the municipality’s hands. But Van Bynen’s attempt to dispute the numbers avoids hard reflection on the issue. Newmarket is in the privileged position of being situated in a region with strong growth prospects. People and businesses desire to be in the area, so let’s find a way to welcome them to Newmarket.

The town needs to admit economic development has been an area of neglect, find out where it faltered and work to fix it. Perhaps more staff should be hired or a strategy update is warranted. Without action, Newmarket will become the exception to the region’s good news story.