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Orillia is ‘the next wave’

June 06, 2014

Gisele Winton Sarvis

Orillia has slipped from first to 11th place in the province for development interest, but will rebound in the coming years, said the author of the Top Ontario Investment Towns report.

Don Campbell, senior analyst of the Real Estate Investment Network (REIN), which studies 118 towns in Ontario, said the slip is not bad news; it’s just Orillia has lagged behind Barrie, a development hotspot ,the past few years.

“Orillia is still in a tremendous spot. If you are No. 11 out of 118, it’s pretty sweet,” said Campbell.

In past rankings, Orillia had been linked with Barrie and the two shared the top spot six years ago, he said.

“Barrie got lucky in that it got the Go Train. As soon as that occurs, people can live there and commute. When you have a major transportation change, people (say), ‘It’s affordable, it’s an awesome lifestyle. It’s not just cottage country anymore,’” he said.

Campbell, who has been studying cities for 22 years, said Orillia is on its way up.

“Orillia is the next wave,” said Campbell, noting because Barrie is now built up, it’s become more expensive. The “ripple” effect, he said, will be that people will look to Orillia for its affordability and lifestyle.

“I like the future of Orillia. It is in a really good spot geographically and demographically for this next five-year run,” he said.

Campbell, who lives outside of Vancouver, said REIN ignores real-estate statistics and focuses on the underpinning of the economy of the region and future demand.

“You’ve got a growing post-secondary (sector). You’ve got infrastructure and jobs. You are not a commuter town. You’ve got so much on your side,” he said.

Mayor Angelo Orsi said Orillia slipped in the rankings because the downturn in the economy over the past few years negatively affected communities outside the GTA.

“I’m disappointed that our growth isn’t as high as it should be, but we have to work with what we have,” said Orsi. “We have a great community with tourism. We have industrial. We are holding onto our existing businesses.”

Orsi added Orillia is poised for growth because it has infrastructure in place, available industrial land and available housing.

While Orillia has a large portion of seniors in the community, the growth of Georgian College and Lakehead University is bringing a younger demographic to the city, he said.

“The next thing we need is to create more jobs” that will retain local youth, Orsi said.

“What’s missing is getting Orillia front and centre as a competitor for jobs and for a community to live in. It’s just a matter of time,” he said.

City of Orillia economic development manager Dan Landry said, “Development interest in the last six months is the highest it’s been in the five years that I’ve been here.”

Landry explained several developments are percolating; he predicted 2015 will most likely be a banner year for construction in Orillia.