Oshawa Mayor signals “bright future” in annual State of the City Address to business leaders

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Published February 17, 2023 at 9:23 am

Greater Oshawa Chamber of Commerce executives members Steve Conaby (left), Carrie-Anne Atkins and Peter Bocking (President) with Oshawa Mayor Dan Carter

It is a rare event when Oshawa Mayor Dan Carter doesn’t rhapsodize about his city’s bright future but there was no need for hyperbole during his annual State of the City Address to business leaders Thursday afternoon.

Signaling that bright future ahead for Oshawa, Carter delivered a speech at a sold-out Harmony Event Centre brimming with optimism and overflowing with accomplishments from what has been a very successful 2022.

“Our great city has so much to look forward to. Let us continue to work together as we embrace this culture of diversity, change and innovation,” Carter told the crowd at the Greater Oshawa Chamber of Commerce Mayor’s Luncheon.

He began his speech by reflecting on last year’s accomplishments, citing more than $900 million in building permits issued (a new record that smashed the old standard with several months to spare), the addition of light-duty Silverado production and a third shift at the Oshawa Assembly Plant, $32 million in new capital infrastructure at the Port of Oshawa and the much anticipated news that the GO Train extension to Bowmanville and its two new Oshawa stations is “fully committed.”

The Mayor was also happy to report 2023 has already began where 2022 left off, particularly with the news that Ontario Power Generation chose Oshawa (and the former GM headquarters building) instead of neighbouring Clarington for its new head office, bringing 2,000 jobs along with it.

Those buzzwords of diversity, change and innovation featured elsewhere in his address as well.

The private sector is already welcoming diversity and breaking down barriers – GM’s new workforce is more than 50 per cent women – and as one of the fastest growing communities in Canada, Oshawa and the needs of its community members are also becoming more diverse, he said. Local government, he stressed, must “embrace change and innovation” to ensure it provides a foundation of customer-centric service.

“We have to meet the demands of a changing world and a dynamic economy. We are determined to make strategic decisions around customer service as the foundation of what we are built upon,” he said.

Nurturing consumer confidence and trust has never been more vital to both businesses and government, he added, and the strategic reorganization of City services has created a shift in culture with a sharpened focus on the customer experience.

“We are committed to being a customer-centric organization, with greater efficiency and collaboration. We have gifted, talented people here. Positive changes are happening and I’m excited about the opportunity.”

Not everything is rosy in the City of Oshawa – the homeless situation and the lack of affordable housing come to mind – but Carter and his council are limited in what they can control and both those issues are the responsibility of upper-tier Durham Region.

Oshawa Mayor Dan Carter

What the City can influence is attracting business and commercial activity and Carter pointed to Oshawa’s 2.2 per cent projected GDP growth and a 4.1 per cent unemployment rate that falls below provincial and national averages as proof the city is trending in the right direction.

“We’ve accomplished a record level of building activity in 2022 of $901 million. Record low unemployment of 4.1 per cent and a rapid level of population growth,” Carter said, adding that with the growth comes new businesses – small, medium and large – that are bringing with them “thousands of new employment opportunities” for the community.

Carter also spoke of Northwood Business Park – 500-acre parcel of prestige employment he boasted will be “aesthetically beautiful” – as Oshawa’s new prime employment development opportunity, and singled out the Columbus and Kedron II housing projects, which together will welcome as many as 50,000 new residents to the city.

In speaking to the many improvements in doing business with the City, Carter reported several significant investments from global leaders bringing new quality jobs to Oshawa and the pipeline of talent that its three post-secondary partners offer.

Recreation opportunities were also mentioned in his address as Carter talked of looking forward to seeing the re-born Rotary Park (that will feature an outdoor pool, destination playground and splash pad) as well as to the future new recreation centre on Thornton Road.

Carter also thanked local business and community leaders for talking up Oshawa and its opportunities on their travels and for “allowing us to make mistakes” and to “charter a new path.”

“I love this city, love our spirit and accomplishments, and love the diversity of our economy and population. I love that you, as business leaders, have become ambassadors of Oshawa as you travel across Canada and the world and talk about our city,” he said.

Carter finished his address with a nod to the future. “Thank you for believing that our best days are still in front of us.”

The pre-speech crowd at the Greater Oshawa Chamber of Commerce Annual Mayor’s Luncheon at the Harmony Event Centre inside the Courtyard by Marriott

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