Chilliwack saw above-average economic growth in the years since the global recession in 2008, according to the first Conference Board of Canada’s Mid-Sized Cities Outlook 2013.
That kind of impressive economic performance bucks a downward trend seen by many mid-sized Canadian cities.
Chilliwack was named among one of the fastest growing mid-sized economies in the entire country between 2005 and 2012, and it was one of only two B.C. communities aside from Duncan, to make the job-growth list.
“I think it’s fabulous,” said Chilliwack Mayor Sharon Gaetz. “I’m grinning from ear to ear.”
That kind of news on the economic front, put the Chilliwack mayor in a great mood on Monday.
The average annual GDP increases for Chilliwack were 6.2 per cent during that specific timeframe of 2005-12, according to the numbers. The employment data used in the report came from Statistics Canada and the economic data, like GDP, or gross domestic product, came from CBoC.
“My heart is going to burst out of my chest with pride,” said Gaetz.
“It’s really exciting to see that some of our strategies are working, and that growing jobs at home is working.”
She points to the synergy between the city’s economic development corporation, CEPCO, and Tourism Chilliwack, as well as University of the Fraser Valley and the Chilliwack school district. Also noted was the fact that taxes and fees are kept purposefully low, by Chilliwack, especially the business tax multiplier tamed at 2.2 per cent.
Chilliwack officials will often cite the fact that only 13 per cent of the community leaves Chilliwack on a daily basis to work, play or shop.
“That’s also pretty low. It means we’re pretty self-contained,” said Gaetz.
Other communities to the west of Chilliwack have even higher percentages of residents who leave daily for a variety of needs.
“One of the things about attracting and retaining business, and growing business, is we are dependent on farming and that makes for a stable economy.”
With about 850 farms in Chilliwack, they are looking for future growth in that sector, she said, especially with the recent financial boost from the province for agriculture facilities at UFV, coordinated by outgoing MLA John Les.
“That’s only going to aid our growth in the farm sector and strengthen the economy even more.”
Many resource dependent communities have struggled with tough economies in recent years, and never regained the job losses they saw, by contrast.
Most mid-sized cities were enjoying substantive economic success before the 2008-09 global recession.
“However, 29 of the 46 mid-sized cities posted negative economic growth on an average annual basis in 2008 and 2009,” reads the news release. “The recession was particularly painful for mid-sized cities in Ontario, where the economies contracted in all 11 mid-sized cities. In contrast seven of the 10 mid-sized cities in Atlantic Canada bucked this trend during the recession.
Fortunately for most mid-sized cities, economic growth resumed in 40 of 46 cities in 2010. But the recovery was short lived for many; 13 posted average annual negative economic growth between 2011 and 2012.
Nearly half of the 46 mid-range cities looked in the CBoC’s first Mid-Sized Cities Outlook 2013 have not recovered all the jobs lost during the recession, based on historical economic data between 2005 and 2012.
“The employment picture has been uneven among Canada’s mid-sized cities over the past decade or so.
“A total of 21 cities have yet to see their employment levels return to pre-recession levels.
“This is a troubling turn of events, given that these mid-sized cities play an important role as economic engines in their respective regions,” said Mario Lefebvre, Director, Centre for Municipal Studies.
There were some bright spots. Between 2005 and 2012, eight mid-sized cities posted average job growth greater than or close to three per cent per year:
• Brockville, Ont.• Leamington, Ont.• Timmins, Ont.• Prince Albert, Sask.• Lethbridge, Alta.• Wood Buffalo, Alta.• Chilliwack, B.C.• Duncan, B.C.