Just North Enough

The City of North Bay

In 1882, a man by the name of John Ferguson got off a train at the northeastern bay of Lake Nipissing, Ontario. A settler looking for a place to call home, Ferguson saw the potential in the landscape before him. He purchased acreage, built his homestead and witnessed the influx of settlers into the area. Unwittingly, he had established the settlement now known as the City of North Bay.

One hundred and thirty years and 54,000 residents later, the City of North Bay continues to grow and diversify. North Bay is committed to building its profile as the place to do business and excellent quality of life in a city of unlimited opportunity.

A Hub of Activity

Known as the “Gateway City” because of its strategic location, North Bay is a transportation and telecommunications hub with a well-developed, efficient transportation infrastructure. This includes highways – the east-west artery of the Trans-Canada runs through North Bay; two national rail lines; two fibre optics networks – the third largest in Ontario after Toronto and Ottawa; and one of the largest airports in the country.

“We’re at the crossroads of north, south, east and west,” explains North Bay’s Mayor, Al McDonald. “We’re the only city in northern Ontario that has a four-lane highway to Toronto.” Completed last year, this four-lane project acts as a corridor to central and southern Ontario, enabling an easy drive to Greater Toronto Metropolitan area in just three hours.

North Bay’s Jack Garland Airport has a runway built to military standards – the airport is home to the North American Air Defense Command (NORAD) and served as a fighter squadron base for many decades. The airport and surrounding lands are now fully municipally-owned, and the airport’s functionality and strategic location allow for expedient import/export capabilities for Canadian, American and international markets. “We are one of only four 10,000 foot runways in the province of Ontario,” Mayor McDonald adds. The airport’s offerings are branded as YYB.ca and present a unique opportunity for businesses to own or lease land right on a runway capable of landing almost anything that flies.

North Bay also boasts a number of terminals for trucking, cartage and national courier companies, as well as two major bus lines providing express and passenger service. The city is less than a day’s drive to over 100 million consumers in both Canada and the United States.

A Vital Service

There are no mines in North Bay, but the city’s Mining Supply and Services sector remains a strong and essential component to the area’s economy. The sector relies heavily on the city’s strategic and cost effective location. “We’re becoming known as a centre of excellence in the Mining Service and Supply industry,” notes Mayor McDonald. “North Bay is home to close to a dozen multi-nationals including industry leaders such as Redpath, Cementation and Atlas-Copco. There are nearly 70 firms in our area involved in the Mining Supply and Services industry, representing an economic output of an estimated $0.7 billion for our local economy.”

North Bay’s municipal Economic Development Corporation Department also partners with Ontario’s North Economic Development Corporation (ONEDC). Its mandate is to promote and implement initiatives to further develop the economy of the Mining and Supply Sector in northern Ontario. The province recently invested over $600,000 in support of the ONEDC’s export assistance program. The program will aid cities such as North Bay in promotion and expansion into international markets.

Encouraging Economic Diversification

Other sectors propelling North Bay’s economy forward include a sustainable mix of commercial, industrial and institutional operations, as indicated by the recent record-breaking construction projects within these sectors. With its diversity of small to medium-sized businesses in the area, North Bay is not as vulnerable to economic downturns as other one-industry communities in northern Ontario.

With a rich, diverse economy, North Bay can boast that it is a business and expansion-friendly environment. “North Bay continues to grow by encouraging local expansions and by attracting new compatible companies,” Mayor McDonald explains. North Bay’s industrial firms have been very successful because of their diversified offerings, producing high margin, low volume, and well-engineered products that are created for an expanding global market. “We’ve been very fortunate that we have been able to use our local businesses as our champions to seek out additional business.”

Open for Business

The North Bay City Council has reduced industrial taxes by 66 percent, one of the lowest rates in Ontario. The city has also eliminated Industrial Development charges and offers municipally serviced industrial acreage at very competitive rates.

The introduction of North Bay’s 20-year Commercial Tax Reduction Program has provided an additional incentive for growth within this sector, providing a competitive operating cost environment. North Bay’s Financial Incentive programs also aid in offsetting operating and capital project costs.

For the city of North Bay, the health of the economy is as much dependent on the survival of existing business as it is on attracting new business. For this reason, North Bay’s Business Retention and Expansion Program (BR&E) in partnership with the North Bay and District Chamber of Commerce promotes initiatives to strengthen and sustain existing businesses in the city. The approach is a proactive one in that the BR&E inquires about challenging issues facing these businesses. Its visitation program aims to resolve and alleviate these concerns.

North Bay’s unique Development Application Review Team (DART) process cuts through the red-tape of the development application process. The team, which is composed of representatives from every city department and other external agencies such as the Ministry of Transportation, North Bay Hydro and the local Conservation Authority meet bi-weekly to review proposals and provide feedback regarding development applications in order to identify any issues or requirements as part of its approval process. DART is a one-stop system that according to the Mayor “has been a proven winner for the City and continues to make doing business in North Bay that much easier.”

The Need for Expansion

North Bay’s success in attracting and retaining businesses in the industrial sector has facilitated the need to construct new industrial parks in the city. With industrial parks offering fully serviced land with a choice of location and size of land parcel, it’s an opportunity for any new or expanding business to consider what North Bay has to offer.

The city’s newest employment area is its Airport Industrial Business Park, which opened in June 2013. With more than 1,000 acres of municipally owned lands at the airport and $6 million spent on the project since 2011, 114 acres are now fully-serviced, with water, sewer, hydro, natural gas and telecommunications. “The city offers tax breaks and will waive planning and permit fees for new and expanding operations under its Airport Community Improvement Plan, (ACIP),” Mayor McDonald notes. The ACIP’s goals include, but are not limited to, fostering growth in the aerospace and aviation sectors, the stimulation of sustainable and compatible development, the generation of new employment opportunities, and the assurance that North Bay remains competitive in attracting new investment.

According to a recent FedNor study, North Bay’s Airport ranks first among 13 comparative airports in northern and southern Ontario, for its excellent condition and over $300 million in airside assets.

Encouraging Immigration

Statistics Canada projects that by 2026, 100 percent of Canada’s growth will be dependent on immigration. North Bay realizes that an immigration strategy is fundamental to economic growth and population challenges. The city encourages immigration, especially to support skilled and professional trades, through channels such as the North Bay Newcomer Network.

“The city recognized immigration efforts as a priority in 2006 when it launched the North Bay Newcomer Network,” Mayor McDonald says. The goal of the Network has been to develop and implement strategies to attract, integrate and retain newcomers to North Bay. “We recognize, as in other cities, that there is going to be a skilled labour shortage. We need to allow our businesses… to attract the skills and talent required in order to continue to be successful.”

Through the efforts of the North Bay Newcomer Network and the endorsement received from the City of North Bay, an immigrant settlement agency was established. The North Bay &District Multicultural Centre opened its doors in 2008 with funding from Citizenship and Immigration Canada. “Since then, the Multicultural Centre and the City have been leading immigration initiatives that have caught the eye of other cities in the province and in Canada.”

Investing in Tourism

The city’s proximity to southern Ontario, northwestern Quebec and the United States allows for easy access to travelers and offers a number of urban and rural outdoor activities to enjoy along the way.

There are numerous businesses in North Bay that participate in the tourism industry, providing accommodations, shopping, restaurants, recreation and entertainment.

North Bay’s Downtown Community Improvement Plan (DCIP) has invested over $44 million to refurbish the city’s downtown, making it more attractive not only to tourists but also for business and residential projects. Included in the Improvement Plan is the $29 million waterfront development showcasing a public marina, boardwalk and beautiful gardens, surrounded by a clean, safe and inviting city.

Mayor McDonald has a clear vision for North Bay’s future. “We recognize, and the studies all show, that within 30 years, 70 percent of the population of Canada is going to live in cities of 100,000 or more. We want to continue to grow and provide the amenities that our citizens want and the amenities that allow us to continue to attract business… what I see is a successful vibrant city where there are opportunities for everyone.”

December 14, 2017, 10:05 AM EST