A Rising Metropolis Steals the Spotlight

City of Saskatoon

It is Saskatoon, Saskatchewan’s largest city, that is in the spotlight, chosen as one of the 10 best midsized Canadian cities in which to live for 2013, not only for its escalating economic strength but for its quality of life, according to Money Sense magazine. We spoke with Tim LeClair, President and CEO of Saskatoon Regional Economic Development Authority, to learn more.

A Growing Metropolis

With a current population of approximately 240,000 and an estimated growth rate of three percent, Saskatoon anticipates a population of close to 400,000 by 2032. According to the Conference Board of Canada, Saskatoon will have the fastest economic growth rate in the country for the 2014-2017 period with an impressive 3.7 percent GDP expansion for 2013. These numbers indicate that migration into Saskatoon is the result of the city being viewed as economically sound with a thriving job market; Saskatoon has the lowest unemployment rate in Canada.

Having one of the most diverse economies in Canada, Saskatoon’s growth in a number of sectors has been consistent with high levels of employment in such industries as agriculture, mining, biotechnology and construction. Saskatoon is a city in transition, requiring astute city planning and a strategic approach toward investing in sustainability and controlled growth. It is through encouraging incentives and attractive investment opportunities that the Canadian Federation of Independent Business recognizes Saskatoon as the most business-friendly city in Canada.

Asset Abundance

Agriculture has historically played a key role in Saskatchewan’s economy. The province produces half of Canada’s major export crops such as barley, rye, wheat, oats and now, canola. Since 2010, canola has replaced wheat as the greatest value crop, generating receipt values of over $8 billion, followed by wheat at $6 billion. With a 12 percent increase from 2011, crop receipts have reached a record high of over $30 billion.

In terms of mining, Saskatchewan is Canada’s only producer of uranium. The world’s largest exporter of uranium, Canadian Mining and Energy Corporation (Cameco), is headquartered in Saskatoon, and has two mines in production and one in development with plans for further expansion within the province. Initially owned by the provincial government (62 percent), and the federal government (38 percent), full privatization took place in 2002.

Cameco’s Saskatoon headquarters was built in 2009 to facilitate its rapid growth and accommodates over 300 employees. The company is a significant contributor to Saskatoon’s regional economy.

Another key player bringing revenue into Saskatoon’s economy is that of potash production. One third of the world’s potash is produced and exported by Canada, with most production coming from Saskatchewan. The largest high grade reserves of both uranium and potash are found in Saskatchewan and the world’s largest potash producer, Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan Inc. (PotashCorp.), also has corporate headquarters in Saskatoon. Created by the government of Saskatchewan in 1975, by 2008 PotashCorp was one of Canada’s most valuable companies by market capitalization, valued then at $63 billion.

But it’s not only uranium and potash driving Saskatchewan and Saskatoon’s economy forward. Saskatchewan has over 25 operational mines that include but are not limited to diamonds, gold, platinum and zinc. From the years 2008 to 2028, an anticipated $43 billion will be invested into new mine expansion, generating $28 billion in provincial revenues. Approximately 30,000 people will find direct and indirect employment in Saskatchewan’s mining industry.

Other sectors that have seen significant growth include biotechnology, oil and gas and retail, all significant drivers to Saskatoon’s emerging status as city in boom mode.

Investing in housing

With its strong anticipated growth rate, Saskatoon anticipates a need for the construction of 60,000 new homes and an accompanying efficient infrastructure to meet demand, especially with an average of 4000 newcomers annually to the city from across Canada and abroad.

It is forecast that Saskatoon’s construction industry will experience over five percent growth for 2013. The strong growth in housing starts and home ownership are good indicators of a healthy growing economy and Saskatoon has invested heavily in the municipal housing market, with $16 million invested since 2007 to encourage home ownership.

Incentives such as Saskatoon’s Housing Business Plan incorporate measures directed toward housing options in variety and availability, with particular focus on affordable housing. It includes a 10 percent contribution toward total project costs on the residential portion of all City Council approved affordable housing projects. In addition, Innovative Residential, in partnership with Saskatchewan Housing Corporation, the City of Saskatoon and the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation to name a few, offers funding options for working families in Saskatoon earning less than $70,000 annually.

Other programs include Saskatoon’s Habitat for Humanity, Equity Building Program and Affordable New Home Development Foundation. All consultants provide advisory services under the Saskatoon Housing Initiative Partnership, (SHIP).

Saskatoon’s rich cultural diversity, community connectedness and active business associations have led to increased business activity and the need for greater commercial space. Saskatoon’s warehouse district is currently experiencing an increase in new diversified businesses – everything from restaurants to design firms, all within close proximity to residential areas and the downtown core. The warehouse district’s newfound purpose contributes to both a renewed vision for the area with a dynamic, unique presence for property investment.

Entrepreneurial Capital of Canada

According to the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, Saskatoon merits being known as the Entrepreneurial Capital of Canada, and for good reason. Both small and large companies are viewing Saskatoon as the place to do business, and with a median age of 35, young entrepreneurs are attracted by the city’s great resources for business start up including support systems such as the Entrepreneurial Foundation of Saskatchewan.

The Entrepreneurial Foundation of Saskatchewan is a non-profit, member-based organization providing mentorship, training and advisory services to all entrepreneurs choosing Saskatoon as their base for business start up, expansion and transition.

Small business in Saskatchewan represents over 90 percent of non-agricultural private firms, employing more than a third of the province’s labour force and creating the majority of new jobs in recent years. The Foundation’s goal is to create a stronger Saskatoon by providing access to required financing to ensure that entrepreneurs have the resources available to be deemed a success.

Adapting to Challenge of Growth

By taking a proactive approach to providing efficient infrastructure for an ever expanding city, Saskatoon’s robust planning for the challenge of growth requires forward thinking, ingenuity and innovation; Saskatoon is prepared.

The city is busy with the construction and restoration of bridges, roads and highways that act as corridors to national highways not only in Canada, but the United States. Also, recently completed was Saskatoon’s $60 million water treatment plant.

Of all 15 major airports in Canada, Saskatoon’s John G. Diefenbaker International Airport is the second fastest growing with a growth rate of 6.5 percent. Phase 1 of the airport’s expansion has already begun and Phase 2 is scheduled to be completed in 2014. At a cost of $70 million, this expansion will double the airport’s size, enabling it to handle over 2 million passengers annually.

Saskatoon is no longer a sleepy prairie town; far from it. It has entered into an age where it’s ready, able and willing to compete with the best.

In a Government of Saskatchewan news release, Saskatchewan’s Minister for Advanced Education, Employment and Immigration, Rob Norris perhaps sums up best. “Saskatchewan has a combination of employment, educational and lifestyle opportunities that is unique and unrivalled in Canada. There is little wonder people from across Canada and around the world are flocking to all of our cities.”

July 19, 2018, 3:38 PM EDT

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