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Message from the Regional Chair

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Executive Summary

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Purpose: To Foster Economic Growth in Niagara

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Background: Partnership with Regional Council and Niagara Economic Development Corporation

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Vision: Growing Prosperity for Niagara

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Taking Inventory: Where Niagara is Today

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Strategic Directions and Action Plans: How Niagara Will Position Itself

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Build a Stronger Collective Voice

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Create a Competitive Business Environment

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Target Strategic Employers

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Improve Transportation and Related Infrastructure

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Re-Brand Niagara

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Develop Niagara’s Talent Pool

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Outcome Measurement: How Niagara Will Gauge Its Success

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Conclusion: The Future Begins Now

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Appendix 1: Steering Committee Members

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Appendix 2: Economic Trends

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Appendix 3: Niagara “SWOT” Analysis

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Appendix 4: Strategy Development Timeline

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As chair of the Regional Municipality of Niagara, I am proud to present N AV I G AT I N G O U R F U T U R E : N i a g a r a ’s Economic Growth Strategy 2005-2010. This document will assist everyone, not just the Region, in strengthening, expanding and further diversifying Niagara’s economic base. I would like to thank each person who participated in the strategy development process. Some 200 stakeholders, representing the private and public sectors, took time to wrestle with the issues and finetune the action plans. In particular, I would like to thank the 12-member Economic Growth Strategy Steering Committee co-chaired by Damian Goulbourne, mayor of the City of Welland; and Hans-Rudi Kroeker, president of Whiting Equipment Canada Inc. The committee, along with the Niagara Economic Development Corporation, demonstrates what public/privatesector collaboration can achieve. I am honoured to rally Niagara around the importance of economic growth, and look forward to implementing this strategy along with many other government, business and community leaders. By working together, we can achieve great results. Peter Partington Niagara Region Chairman




To prosper in years ahead, Niagara must set its economic course. It must analyze its options for growth and forge ahead boldly with actions that will yield major dividends. Now more than ever, Niagara must think smart and take action to create a healthy economic future. This economic growth strategy fills that need. NAVIGATING OUR FUTURE presents six strategic directions and the supporting action plans necessary to foster significant, measurable economic growth within Niagara from 2005-2010. Initiated by Regional Council and developed under the leadership of the Niagara Economic Development Corporation, the strategy is the culmination of efforts by many dedicated parties.

These strategic directions, together with the action plans, will help Niagara fulfill its economic potential. With widespread collaboration on the part of business, government and community organizations, Niagara can steer itself into a more prosperous future. The course is charted. The goals are set. The future begins now!

The Niagara Economic Growth Strategy Steering Committee, with representation from business as well as government, was at the heart of the work. Also playing a critical role were some 200 private and public sector stakeholders, who, together with steering committee members, participated in a series of intensive meetings addressing Niagara’s economic future. The six strategic directions and supporting action plans emerged from those dynamic, sometimes impassioned debates. The strategic directions, in a nutshell: 1. Build a stronger collective voice. 2. Create a competitive business environment. 3. Target strategic employers. 4. Improve transportation and related infrastructure. 5. Re-brand Niagara. 6. Develop Niagara’s talent pool. 2



The purpose of this document is to present an economic growth strategy that will foster significant, measurable economic growth in Niagara from 2005 to 2010. The ultimate goal is sustainable economic growth based on the principles of responsible stewardship. The focus on sustainability is in harmony with Regional Niagara’s Smart Growth initiatives, and with its Policy Plan, which

identifies the goal of improving regional selfreliance through long-range economic development and economic diversification. This document reflects private and public sector interests, as a result of the active participation of both private and public sector representatives. (For more information please see Appendix 1; Steering Commitee Members)



BACKGROUND: PARTNERSHIP WITH REGIONAL COUNCIL AND NIAGARA ECONOMIC AND TOURISM CORPORATION In August 2004, Regional Council endorsed a proposal to bring together representatives of the private and public sectors to develop an economic growth strategy for Niagara.

Also involved in strategy development were some 200 public and private sector stakeholders. These individuals provided an extra layer of hands-on expertise across all economic sectors.

Council identified the Niagara Economic Development Corporation (NEDC), the region’s economic development organization, as the a g e n c y t o c o - o rd i n a t e o v e r a l l s t r a t e g y development.

The “nuts and bolts” of the strategy emerged from a series of intensive meetings involving steering committee members and stakeholders. Some were dynamic, large-group events grappling with broad economic issues. Others were smaller gatherings designed to determine the best possible actions to ensure specific outcomes.

To prepare the strategy, Council established the Niagara Economic Growth Strategy Steering Committee, co-chaired by a leading industrialist and a Council-appointed designate (see Appendix 1 for full list of member names).

Through further consultations, the broader public, as well as all levels of government, have been engaged.

A strategic and diverse mix of individuals from both business and government, the committee represented both public and private interests in striving to make Niagara a more prosperous place to live and work.

In summary, this has been a collaborative effort. Whether through quiet analysis or heated debate, the contribution of each participant has added to the whole.




This Strategy Envisions: A prosperous Niagara, one that fulfills its economic potential. A cohesive Niagara, one that rallies together toward common goals. A breath-of-fresh-air Niagara, one that welcomes new ways of thinking and doing business. A confident Niagara, one that embraces new adventures in wealth creation. A smart Niagara, one that makes economic decisions strategically, for the benefit of all.




From an economic perspective, Niagara has much to celebrate. The word “Niagara” has brand equity around the world, and the diversity of the region’s economy—spanning manufacturing, tourism, agriculture, and services—provides a measure of stability.

One of the challenges in preparing a well-grounded and actionable economic growth strategy is to balance optimism with realism, both in describing the current economic landscape and in planning f utu re co u rs e s of ac t i on . Th i s st rate g y acknowledges Niagara’s strengths as well as its weaknesses. By acknowledging both strengths and weaknesses, Niagara is in a better position to determine what economic outcomes can realistically be achieved.

Signs of prosperity are hard to miss, from new wineries and hotels to the new $1-billion Niagara Fallsview Casino Resort. Niagara’s location, on a binational border and close to the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), is strategic. Quality of life in Niagara is high.

To describe Niagara’s current economic landscape, it is useful to identify key trends that allow comparison of the region with other Census Metropolitan Areas in Ontario. Based on standard economic performance indicators, Niagara does not compare well. It has tended to lag behind other Ontario CMA’s on six important fronts: 1) GDP growth; 2) Population growth; 3) Net inmigration; 4) Employment growth; 5) Employment income; and 6) Education levels.

Even as Niagara adjusts to global competition, the region remains one of the most charmed pieces of real estate in the province. Its moderate climate, rolling vineyards, grand Escarpment views and world-famous waterfalls set it apart. And yet, for all its strengths, Niagara as a whole is performing below its economic potential. It has pockets of prosperity but overall trends suggest an underachieving economy. Niagara must focus its attention and channel its energies if it is to truly excel.

St. Catharines-Niagara ranked seventh of 10 in GDP growth from 1997 to 2003 and grew by approximately 20,000 people from 1993 to 2003.




Niagara’s net in-migration is relatively low and its employment growth is slow, with manufacturing jobs in decline. Average annual earnings are modest; the 2001 average of $30,750 was significantly lower than the provincial norm. Level of university attainment is also below average. (See Appendix 2: Economic Trends)

Analysis of the region’s strengths and weaknesses, along with related opportunities and threats, confirms this.

These measures suggest that Niagara cannot afford to be complacent about its economic future.

The region also has many opportunities on which it could capitalize, or on which it could capitalize more effectively. Niagara’s bi-national border location and its proximity to the Greater Toronto Area are examples.

Niagara has many economic strengths, from a diversified economy to high quality of life to a mild climate.

However, Niagara has its share of economic weaknesses as well, from transportation inadequacies to a lack of critical mass in key valueadded sectors to limited private/public sector cohesion. Similarly, Niagara faces many economic threats— among them global competition and the provincial government’s tendency to neglect Niagara as an investment priority. (For a full analysis of Niagara’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats see Appendix 3: Niagara “SWOT” Analysis) Niagara must take decisive, strategic action in order to transform weaknesses into strengths, and threats into opportunities. The remainder of this document addresses what strategic directions Niagara will adopt and what action plans it will follow in order to foster greater regional prosperity.



STRATEGIC DIRECTIONS AND ACTION PLANS: HOW NIAGARA WILL POSITION ITSELF The following six strategic directions and supporting action plans will help Niagara position itself for greater prosperity. The six strategies and related action plans in the full document correspond directly to the six strategies in the summary document. The difference in numbering simply reflects that they are in Section 6 of the full report.


BUILD A STRONGER COLLECTIVE VOICE For Niagara to emerge as an economic leader, business, government and the not-for-profit sector must rally around the common cause of Niagara’s economic future. Shared focus on this common goal will create stronger working relationships, leverage resources and strengthen regional stewardship initiatives. It will also foster a powerful and persuasive “common voice” in relation to specific economic development issues that affect Niagara. 6.1.1

Develop a cohesive Niagara voice, providing investors and governments with confidence and clarity about the region’s position on key issues. Present a cohesive Niagara agenda and ensure a united front when approaching the provincial and federal governments in relation to their policies, programs, and investments that affect the region. Undertake research on collaborative activity among the private sector, government and the not-for-profit sector; and assess its impact on economic growth and investment. Host a summit to identify and strengthen core regional values that directly impact Niagara’s future prosperity.

2003 - 2006 Regional Council 8



In order to retain and attract new investment, Niagara must make it appealing for investors to do business here. Currently, both real and perceived investment barriers are limiting Niagara’s growth potential. Niagara needs to focus on how best to compete and win new business and employment. 6.2.1

Foster competitiveness, efficiency, and innovation in Niagara’s government and business sectors. Develop a systematic approach for benchmarking and assessing the cost competitiveness of the Region of Niagara’s services to business.

6.2.3. Develop an efficient and seamless process for businesses seeking development permits and related approvals. Work co-operatively with local municipalities to create a timely and integrated mechanism for receiving and reviewing development permit applications. Incorporate an economic development perspective as an integral part of the evaluation of major applications. Create a regional business development expeditor model/program. Develop and promote “best of class” examples in Niagara’s private and public sectors.

6.2.4 Establish an annual Niagara Economic Scorecard tracking the region’s economic progress based on key indicators. Nurture and develop a stronger relationship between the Region of Niagara and the local business community.


Keep Niagara’s overall business costs competitive. Conduct a formal analysis of Niagara tax policy in relation to other jurisdictions in order to rank and address regional competitiveness in this area. Work to reduce industrial and commercial taxes in Niagara. Encourage Smart Growth/Brownfield initiatives.

Promote continuous two-way communication between Niagara business and government. Develop a new progressive partnership agenda with the Niagara business community. Seek formal business community input into the Region of Niagara’s infrastructure and business development programs. Work closely with local municipalities and economic development partners to advance the economic priorities of the region.




It is impossible for a region to pursue economic growth on all fronts at once. Therefore, it is critical to build on existing strengths and make them growth priorities. The Economic Growth Strategy Steering Committee has identified a set of priority growth targets that both reaffirm the importance of the largest economic sector in Niagara, manufacturing, as well as target other sectors that provide significant investment returns over time. Diversify the tourism leisure segment through a stronger meetings and conventions market for Niagara.

6.3.1 Continue to implement the recommendations of the Regional Chair’s Agricultural Force.

6.3.4 Build on and diversify Niagara’s automotive industry cluster.

Explore and pursue opportunities for growth in these strategic industry clusters: • Transportation, automotive and related manufacturing; • Tourism; • Business services; • Value-added agriculture processing; and, • Environmental and life sciences.


Work closely with local municipalities and economic develpment partners to advance the economic priorities of the region.


Enhance the vibrancy of Niagara’s diverse economic base, with economic growth distributed throughout the region.

Build on Niagara’s historic business strengths to develop new strategic growth areas. Develop Niagara’s public and private research capacity to increase innovation and the competitiveness of key economic sectors. Expand and enhance Niagara’s communications and financial services cluster through the development and attraction of data centres and data warehouses. Strengthen Niagara’s transportation and distribution services cluster, building upon border security, warehousing, and logistics services. Encourage the development of new value-added manufacturing processes (e.g., wine industry model and Port Colborne’s “carbohydrate valley” bioproducts industry). Encourage the development of information technology firms in Niagara through business information technology networks. Support infrastructure developments (e.g., water and sewer, transportation, and energy) that encourage industrial growth in Niagara, especially above the Niagara escarpment.

6.3.5 Foster the creation of co-operative marketing consortia in tourism industries to ensure a year-round, quality Niagara tourism experience. Diversify and expand the scope of activities and experiences for both tourists and residents by identifying, facilitating, and packaging tourism development opportunities across Niagara. 10

Capitalize on Niagara’s comparative advantages, in particular its natural and historic features, which make it attractive to a wide range of lifestylerelated investors.



Niagara’s transportation system is a priority concern among businesses, government agencies and residents throughout the region. Transportation inadequacies are limiting local economic growth. This strategy advocates consistent and rigorous pursuit of Niagara’s short- and long-term transportation goals. 6.4.1

and Development of improved crossborder infrastructure. Set as top priority the implementation of an effective intra-regional transportation system to ensure that workers, students, and visitors are able to move easily throughout the region.

Work toward the achievement of an effective, multi-modal transportation network for Niagara. Create business plans that support the transportation development priorities established for Niagara. Identify where growth will occur, what the focus of this growth will be, and what short- and longterm transportation infrastructure requirements will be needed. Accelerate implementation of the Niagara Region Transportation Strategy and adequately fund its key strategic directions. Key projects to be advanced include: Development of an intra-regional transportation system; Construction of a Niagara-GTA corridor; Expansion of Highway 406 to Welland/ Port Colborne;

6.5 Integrate Niagara's marine, rail, air and trucking transportation systems at strategic locations.

RE-BRAND NIAGARA. The word “Niagara” has brand equity around the world thanks to the region’s majestic waterfall. Yet the dominance of this natural icon keeps potential investors from seeing more. To truly prosper, Niagara must be perceived for what it is—a diversified business community and multi-faceted tourism and cultural destination. This strategy lays the groundwork for Niagara’s re-invention in the minds of investors, tourists and the general public. 6.5.1 Increase the profile/involvement of Niagara business leaders in external business organizations and associations. Generate targeted speaking engagements for Niagara business leaders external to the region. Develop media/public relations programs that produce more third-party business coverage of Niagara.

Create a “BrandNiagara” that defines the brand essence or unique features of the region and its market position. Implement a systematic public/private “ambassador calling program” with targeted federal/provincial trade officials. Create a “Team of Brand Champions” to examine the feasibility of establishing such a brand and the process/resources required for successful implementation. 6.5.2

Position Niagara as a diversified, attractive, and progressive business community.


Position Niagara as a multi-faceted, fourseason overnight destination. Create a media/public relations program for Niagara targeting travel media and writers. 11



Niagara has a reliable labour force of more than 200,000 people. However, Niagara’s educational attainment levels are below the provincial average, as are annual earnings. Niagara’s prosperity depends on the strength of its people and on its capacity to produce and attract skilled graduates and versatile workers. 6.6.1 Encourage educational institutions to support the manufacturing sector by helping to provide a qualified supply of skilled labour. Priority areas include applied technology, production management and apprenticeship programs to support skilled trades. 6.6.2

Expand the focus and capacity of Niagara's postsecondary institutions, with enhanced linkages to strategic economic sectors.

Maximize the skills of Niagara’s existing labour force within a transitioning economy. Build awareness among Niagara employers about available education and training initiatives. Develop a collaborative program promoting secondary and post-secondary school co-op and work placements among Niagara employers. Attract companies that can utilize Niagara’s existing talent base and develop training and re-training programs in growth industries. Encourage the development of more “articulation agreements” between Niagara College, Brock University, and other institutions. Support the skills development needs of displaced workers to facilitate their return to Niagara’s labour force. Convene an education summit to encourage collaboration between business and secondary and postsecondary educational institutions in the development of training models. Explore opportunities for repatriation of workers who have left Niagara, as specialized labour shortages intensify.



DEVELOP NIAGARA’S TALENT POOL (continued) Retain and attract highly skilled individuals to support the growth and success of Niagara’s economy. Conduct a marketing campaign encouraging immigrants to settle in Niagara.



Encourage Niagara employers to proactively participate in building a learning culture. Encourage stronger links between local employers and Niagara’s educational institutions, with a specific focus on improving the overall level of university attainment by residents. Foster employer commitment to staff training and life-long learning and highlight Niagara-based “best practices.” Assist small- and medium-sized employers to build human resource capacity including the assessment of education/training needs and workforce development programs. 6.6.4

Improve Niagara’s overall educational attainment levels. Create bi-national educational partnerships in strategic employment fields (e.g., international trade, hospitality, border security). Support the development of applied degrees that meet the needs of the local economy (e.g., hospitality and tourism/operations management, and applied engineering technologies).

Attract immigrants and actively integrate them into the Niagara community and economy. Provide information on Niagara’s benefits and opportunities to immigrants entering Canada.




The implementation of an annual Niagara Economic Scorecard will allow the region to track its economic performance based on key indicators. The launch of such a scorecard is an action plan under strategic direction number 6.2 (Create a competitive business environment) because it will help to emphasize competitiveness, efficiency and innovation in Niagara’s government and business sectors. Comparing itself with other Census Metropolitan Are a s w i l l p ro v i d e ad d e d i n ce nt i ve fo r St. Catharines-Niagara as it continues to pursue economic growth. Possible indicators to be used include: • • • • •

Per capita GDP growth; Population growth and composition; Employment growth; Industry cluster concentration; and, Income levels

Scorecard results will not determine the success of this economic growth strategy because many factors beyond the strategy’s control—some of them advantageous, some of them damaging—will affect Niagara’s economic future. However, each of the action plans within the strategy will include performance indicators. Niagara will keep a close watch on its performance in relation to each action plan.




This strategy has a five-year time horizon but is intended as a rolling plan that Niagara will revisit each year in order to address changing circumstances that affect the region’s economic performance potential. The challenge will be to navigate the changes with sights set on the constant goal of economic growth. Strategy implementation will begin with the preparation of an “Action Matrix” that will take the action plans to the next level of detail. The matrix will outline: • • • •

The specific tasks that will support each action plan; The individuals/organizations to accomplish each task; Implementation timelines for each action plan; and Performance measurements in relation to each action plan.

With widespread collaboration on the part of business, government and community organizations, Niagara can steer itself into a more prosperous future. The course is charted. The goals are set. The future begins now!



Members of the Economic Growth Strategy Steering Committee that prepared this document are as follows: Damian Goulbourne, Committee Co-Chair Mayor, City of Welland

Dan Patterson President, Niagara College

Hans-Rudi Kroeker, Committee Co-Chair President, Whiting Equipment Canada Inc.

Len Pennachetti President, Cave Spring Cellars Inc.

Julia Kamula Senior Vice President, Operations Osprey Media Group Inc.

Rej Picard Chief Executive Officer, Westbrook Floral Ltd.

Dr. Dragan Matovic Executive Vice President & Director Panoramic Hospitality Inc.

Tony Quirk Alderman, Town of Grimsby

Sheila Morra Councillor, City of St. Catharines

Wayne Redekop Mayor, Town of Fort Erie

Dennis Parass President, Handling Specialty Mfg. Ltd.

Jim Williams Chairman, Niagara Parks Commission



As mentioned earlier in this document, Niagara has tended to lag behind other Ontario centres in six areas: 1) GDP growth; 2) Population growth; 3) Net inmigration; 4) Employment growth; 5) Employment income; and 6) Education levels.

Niagara’s major manufacturing industries are primary metals, motor vehicles, fabricated metals, food and beverages, and machinery. However, most of these industries are struggling. •

Agriculture, while a significantly smaller sector, continues to expand as a result of growth in wineries, greenhouse production, poultry and fruit.

Opening of the Niagara Fallsview Casino Resort in Niagara Falls in June 2004 boosted tourism. However, tourism has also suffered setbacks. Among them: the terrorist attack on the U.S. on September 11, 2001; the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS); and the appreciation of the Canadian dollar.

This appendix supports these observations. The details below are based on a compilation of data titled Economic Trends in Niagara (Niagara Economic Development Corporation, November 2004). Unless otherwise noted, statistics come from the Census Metropolitan Areas (CMA) Benchmark Summary.

1.0 Growth in Gross Domestic Product The overall GDP performance of St. Catharines/Niagara lags behind that of most other Ontario centers in the CMA Benchmark Summary. St. Catharines/Niagara ranked seventh of 10 Ontario centres in GDP growth from 1997 to 2003.

The Centre for Spatial Economics estimates Niagara’s total GDP for 2003 at about $14 billion, with manufacturing, finance and trade representing the largest portions of the total. In 2001, Niagara’s GDP dropped by about $1 billion, to $13.2 billion from $14.1 billion in 2000. Recovery from this economic recession was still under way in 2003, as GDP had yet to match or exceed the 2000 level of $14.1 billion. Many factors affect GDP. Here are some sectoral highlights specific to Niagara: • Manufacturing is the region’s single largest sector, contributing almost 21 per cent to total GDP. 17

2.0 Population Growth Again according to the CMA Benchmark Summary, Niagara ranked eighth of 10 Ontario centres in population growth from 1996 to 2001.

Niagara’s population is growing, but very slowly.

Niagara’s total population in 2001 was 426,500. By 2003 (the most recently available statistic), it had yet to reach 430,000.

3.0 Net In-Migration Niagara ranked eighth of ten Ontario centers in net inmigration from 1996 to 2002. •

Net in-migration is Niagara’s primary population driver. In-migration into the region is occurring, but


only at a modest pace. From 1996 to 2001, Niagara’s net in-migration was only 2.4 per cent. •

The pace of in-migration to Niagara is modest because of the relatively slow pace of job creation in the region. Meanwhile, youth are leaving the area.

4.0 Employment Growth

5.0 Employment Income

Niagara ranked eighth of 10 Ontario CMAs in employment growth from 1996 to 2001.

Niagara ranked eighth of 10 Ontario CMAs in total employment income from 1996 to 2002.

During this period, employment in St. Catharines/Niagara increased by 10.4 per cent. By comparison, Toronto’s employment level increased by 20.5 per cent.

Tourism employment has grown despite industry volatility.

Agricultural output has been increasing; however, the growth in productivity has meant limited job growth.

Service employment has been growing modestly.

Earned incomes are generally lower in Niagara than in Ontario or Canada. Niagara’s average earnings were $30,750 in 2001, or 87 per cent of the average earnings for Ontario ($35,185).

The share of people age 65 and up is well above provincial and national averages; therefore, government transfer payments account for a larger share of personal income in Niagara, compared to other locations. Lower average earned incomes and a higher share of seniors contribute to Niagara’s lower than average household incomes.

6.0 Education Levels Niagara’s population age 20 and over is less educated overall compared to other populations in Ontario and across Canada.

Growth in manufacturing output has been slow. That, coupled with the fact that some of the growth in output is the result of productivity increases, has meant that manufacturing jobs are actually in decline.

The unemployment rate in the region tends to be lower than elsewhere in Ontario, but so does the labour force participation rate (labour force as a percentage of the total population age 15 and over). As a result, the number of employed persons per household is relatively low in Niagara.

The share of the region’s population with a trade certificate or diploma, or with a college degree, is as high as or higher than that elsewhere in the province and nation.

However, Niagara’s share of people with a university education falls well short of provincial and national figures. As a result, Niagara has a relatively high percentage of the population with only a high school education or less.

Note: For more on economic trends, including more graphic depictions, visit



In November 2004, the Niagara Economic Development Corporation prepared a Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT) Analysis of the region. The following section cites that research.

2.0 Niagara’s Weaknesses Niagara also has its share of weaknesses. For example: • Lack of critical mass in key value-added sectors. • Few corporate headquarters based here, and few specialized research and development firms and institutions. • Slow population growth rate. • Increasingly aging population, with youths age 18 to 24 leaving the area. • Educational attainment levels lower than the Ontario average, especially in terms of graduation from university. • Relatively low average annual earnings. • Tax assessment base that cannot support future funding needs for infrastructure and transportation. • Roadblocks to development approvals, because investors must deal with multiple levels of government. • Structural weaknesses that impede growth – for example, transportation inadequacies, high industrial taxation, and limited private/public sector cohesion.

1.0 Niagara’s Strengths Niagara has many strengths, among them: • A diversified economy based on manufacturing, tourism, agriculture and services. • Indigenous economic building blocks, such as the wine sector, agriculture, tourism and the arts. • Established manufacturing concentrations and supplier networks in auto parts, shipbuilding, aerospace and metal fabrication. • Proximity to major U.S. and Canadian markets. • Hub status for transportation, warehousing and logistics (i.e., in relation to rail, maritime, trucking and brokerage services). • Competitive overall business costs compared to the rest of Ontario. • Climate well suited to such industries as tender fruit growing and tourism. • Large number of tourist attractions and recent accelerated growth in tourism infrastructure (eg. gaming facilities, upscale hotels and spas, and golf courses. • Beautiful scenery and world-famous canal and waterfalls. • Brand equity of the word “Niagara” around the world. • Stable regional labour market of 200,000 employees. • Strong training infrastructure with dedicated “centers of excellence.” • High quality of life (eg. relatively low overall cost of living, short commutes to work, access to many cultural and recreational amenities).

3.0 Niagara’s Opportunities Niagara has many opportunities on which it could capitalize, or on which it could capitalize more effectively: • The region’s bi-national border location offers unique advantages in tourism, manufacturing and services. There is opportunity to transition Niagara’s economy to one centered on knowledge workers providing value-added services in a technologically advanced business environment. • 19

Niagara’s connections to the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) represent a high-potential leveraging opportunity in terms of business


• •

• •

relocation, sales and visitor attraction. In addition, there is opportunity to position Niagara as an integral component of the GTA’s economic future. The critical mass of Niagara’s tourism sector offers new opportunities for strategic economic growth. It is possible to build the tourism economy into a higher-wage, year-round economic sector. Niagara’s agricultural base offers new opportunities in bio-manufacturing and agri-food products. Development opportunities exist within Niagara’s rural/southern economy. There is also opportunity for compact development within cities. Niagara’s overall business costs are competitive, creating feasible business growth opportunities for existing businesses and potential investors. Elimination of cost factors generally perceived as problematic (e.g., high industrial taxation rates and reassessment claw backs) could make these costs more competitive. High quality of life and low cost of living are drawing cards Niagara can more profitably use to attract potential investors and their families to move to Niagara. Niagara has development potential for integrated multi-modal transportation. Stronger alignment of Niagara’s economic development priorities with those of Ontario and Canada would allow Niagara to share more proportionately in the wealth generated by provincial and national initiatives. Such alignment would also allow Niagara to benefit more fully from provincial and federal resources in place to foster and manage economic growth.

4.0. Threats to Niagara Niagara faces various economic threats: • The region is not an investment priority for Ontario, creating a competitive disadvantage compared to other parts of the province. 20

Impending GTA growth into Niagara will need to be carefully managed. • Niagara has insufficient transportation infrastructure, which limits growth in all sectors. • Niagara lacks an intra-regional transportation network. • Intensifying global competition in the manufacturing and service sectors continues to put pressure on Niagara’s economy. • The increased value of the Canadian dollar negatively impacts exporters. • Border delays cause a major impact on Niagara and Ontario manufacturing and tourism sectors. • International geo-political volatility leaves Niagara vulnerable. • The lack of new investment in key sectors of the economy means that the revitalization of ailing industries is not taking place. • The loss of youth to skilled professional employment opportunities beyond Niagara represents a loss in talent and economic building power. • The impending wave of retirements, due to the aging of the population, will result in labour shortages. • The Niagara business community has been largely critical of efforts to develop a pro-business climate and remove barriers to growth. Niagara has a history and reputation for traditionalism, passivity and status quo thinking. The region lacks the critical mass required to develop a culture of innovation in relation to business and other types of growth. Note: For more on Niagara’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, visit


Here is a chronology of events that led to the development of Niagara’s economic growth strategy: • August 2004 ~ Regional Council endorses proposal to bring together representatives of the private and public sectors to develop an economic growth strategy for Niagara • September 2004 ~ Economic Growth Strategy (EGS) Steering Committee formed, with public and private sector representation • September to December 2004 ~ EGS Steering Committee and other public and private sector stakeholders attend meetings to discuss broad economic issues • December 2004 ~ EGS Steering Committee identifies six strategic directions to form the backbone of the economic growth strategy • January to March 2005 ~ EGS Steering Committee and other stakeholders attend meetings to discuss action step s supporting the six strategic directions • January and February 2005 ~ EGS Steering Committee updates Regional Council • March 2005 ~ Draft economic growth strategy approved by Niagara Economic Development Corporation Board of Directors and EGS Steering Committee • April 2005 ~ Regional Council approves final draft Niagara economic growth strategy


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CONTACT US: Regional Municipality of Niagara 2201 St. David's Road P.O. Box 1042 Thorold, ON CANADA L2V 4T7 Tel. (905) 685-1571 or 1-800-263-7215 E-mail: Niagara Economic Development Corporation 2201 St. David's Road P.O. Box 1042 Thorold, ON CANADA L2V 4T7 Tel. (905) 685-1308 E-mail: No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form by any means without the written permission of the Niagara Economic Development Corporation. Photography used in this brochure provided by Niagara College April 2005

Navigating our future  
Navigating our future  

Niagara Economic Development Corporation "Navigating our Future" document.