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Booming economy brings benefits, challenges

Depending on whom you ask, Sudbury either is in the thick of, or about to enter, an economic boom.
Depending on whom you ask, Sudbury either is in the thick of, or about to enter, an economic boom.

This should come as no surprise to city residents, who have been told for years that mining is in the midst of a “super cycle” that is helping drive investment into the local resource economy.

In the industrial sector, Vale’s Clean AER (for “Atmospheric Emissions Reduction”) project is an enormous initiative with a pricetag of a whopping $2 billion. It will create hundreds of temporary construction jobs, and pump millions of spinoff dollars into the city’s economy.

There is much excitement around Cliffs Natural Resources announcement that it plans to build its $1.8-billion ferrochrome smelter in Capreol.

Some might argue that the timelines for the Cleveland company’s Ring of Fire project are aggressive, or even unrealistic (and still others are holding a wait-and-see attitude until the details of Cliffs’ electrical power deal with the province, and how much that will cost taxpayers, are made public), but what cannot be disputed is the impact the smelter project will have if it goes ahead.

Greater Sudbury’s economy, and its health, was highlighted last week in a report from BMO World Markets.

Type “boom” into the search bar at to get the full details on that report, but what’s clear from BMO’s analysis is unemployment is low, housing demand is firm, housing starts are among the highest in 17 years and, if BMO’s projection holds true, Sudbury could be home to 4,000 new jobs by 2016.

But the boom is not solely one of economics. Culture is booming as well. Sudbury is home to dozens and dozens of working artists, five or six active theatre companies, and a burgeoning film industry.

From the biggest names in the Canadian and international music scenes to local groups playing for fun, not necessarily profit, Sudbury is a hub of music in the north.

Hungry? The restaurant scene in the city has exploded in recent years.
Sudbury is a city on the move, but along with benefits, the boom brings challenges.

As the BMO report points out, Sudbury has a modest labour pool that is already stretched to meet the current demand for skilled labour, let alone the projected future demand. The Sudbury and District Chamber of Commerce is actively working to strategize for this.

Similar discussions should be held at city hall, as it will take a concerted effort by business, industry and government to ensure a labour shortage doesn’t derail the speeding economic train Sudbury appears to be on.

With economic growth comes development and with development comes an acronym that strikes fear into the hearts of governments and developers alike: NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard).

There will always be a percentage of the population resistant or uncomfortable with growth or change; the trick is to encourage development while meeting the expectations of taxpayers, and those expectations far outweigh any element of NIMBY.

Most ratepayers are in favour of development, but they have a serious concern, and that concern crops up again and again in public meetings: how to deal with the city’s enormous infrastructure deficit.

Development can only occur if the infrastructure is in place to support it. Greater Sudbury’s elected officials have to be cognisant that the speeding economic train can be brought to a screeching halt if a plan is not put in place so that infrastructure and development grow together.

It is a difficult and challenging situation, an unenviable one, with which elected officials in this community must deal.

No one wants to pay higher taxes and no one wants to see the city take on more debt, but Greater Sudbury’s infrastructure needs TLC and that will come at a cost. A big one.

A tall order to be sure, but one officials cannot shirk in the slightest. The future depends on it.

Posted by Vivian Scinto