Economic development: Ontario’s top 10 communities

le boat smiths falls
International luxury houseboat company Le Boat has 16 boats in its Smiths Falls location, which acts as their North American headquarters.

By Kristen Frisa
Special to Ontario Construction Report

Ontario’s communities are shining beacons of economic opportunity. Access to education, main transportation arteries, and the provincial and federal capitols provide the resources and the people to build and grow businesses, homes, and neighbourhoods. The hard work of the following communities’ economic development offices provide examples to all of Ontario, on how to foster excitement and investment to keep the economy strong.
Communities below are listed alphabetically, because who could rate the excellent work they’re doing?


As Toyota Canada is busy setting up the Eastern Canada Parts Distribution Centre in Bowmanville, and East Penn Canada is adding a new distribution centre in nearby Courtice, the rest of the business community there readies itself for the resulting economic boom. In fact, Clarington as a whole saw unprecedented building growth through 2018, and it shows no signs of slowing down. Supported by the Clarington Office of Economic Development, which works hard to ensure the voice of business is heard, Bowmanville is in the centre of an area seeing undeniable economic growth.

County of Brant

Small and medium-sized businesses dominate the County of Brant, indicating the great diversity of economic development there. It also means these businesses have a huge influence on the economy of the area. There’s a good reason Brant is popular with the small-scale set: competitive development charges, low industrial and residential taxes, and a strong and educated workforce are distinct advantages in the area. Pair that with vibrant arts and outdoor recreation scenes, and it’s easy to see why the County of Brant is becoming home to an increasing number of businesses and their employees.


With large-scale development plans like the Baker District Redevelopment driving traffic to business areas, Invest in Guelph is creating a city on the rise. Guelph’s excellence in economic development is apparent, in part, by the recognition the city is getting from governments and federal agencies. Statistics Canada reported in February that Guelph’s census metropolitan area (CMA) had the second-highest year-over-year employment growth in the country. Add that to the fact that Global Affairs Canada invited representatives from the city to the Global Food Summit in Germany in March, and it’s clear that Invest in Guelph fosters business development in a way that gets results!


Kingston fosters business opportunities in a way that reflects the diversity of the community: it has seen fantastic success with partnerships to promote Kingston as a travel destination by offering preferred travel rates to and from China; the city’s Summer Company program partners young entrepreneurs with local business mentors to get them off to a good start to grow Kingston’s economy from within; and Kingston was recognized as being Canada’s most gender equal city by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. Kingston Economic Development Corporation fosters small business growth with seminars on sales, social media, and business financing, to help all business owners grow and thrive.

Leeds and Grenville

Considered by many a vacation paradise, the united counties of Leeds and Grenville offer unparalleled beauty and quality of life amenities to businesses and their employees. So it’s no surprise the communities of the area are boasting growing businesses in agri-food, manufacture, transportation, and tourism industries.

The Leeds-Grenville Economic Development team unites the area through a collaborative approach to opening up opportunities for all the communities it represents, as evidenced by the largest counties-wide Business Retention and Expansion program the area has ever seen, designed to make businesses in the area even more competitive so they continue to drive growth.

Middlesex County

This is a county that understands its people: Middlesex County is home to many small communities. As such, its Economic Development Corporation delivers unique offerings to reflect the needs of small communities. For example, the Teeny Tiny Summit, an event geared toward sharing ideas and strategies to maximize opportunity in towns and villages, is set to be hosted in Middlesex this year. Middlesex boasts recent investment from both product and service businesses, which are growing and expanding in the community.


Oshawa’s inclusion in the Greater Toronto Area and its water gateway at the Port of Oshawa give it access to world markets at a lower cost of business than larger cities. The Conference Board of Canada has projected Oshawa to have the highest 2018 gross domestic product (GDP) growth in Ontario at 2.4 percent; in 2017 the city broke a fifteen-year record for growth. The results can be seen in redevelopments of the former Centre Point Mall, Trent University’s Durham expansion, and development of the Northwood Business Park. Supported by increased housing in various areas of the city, including in a luxury rental development in the downtown core, Oshawa is primed to continue its boom into the future.

Smiths Falls

Economic growth has been on a roll for years in Smiths Falls, a town only a short drive from Ottawa. Recent investments from Le Boat, an international boating company, got a lot of media attention and helped position the town as an inviting and progressive community for further investment. Overall business activity has seen a boom as a result of strong planning from the Economic Development Office. Pair that with the quality of life residents of Smiths Falls enjoy, with a thriving medical community, entertainment and encouragement of numerous events and festivals, and proximity to our nation’s capitol, and you have a recipe for strong investment into the future.

New and growing investments housing developments, and natural beauty prove Smiths Falls is in an economic boom


Tillsonburg has a proven track record of investment by global companies and, along with an Open for Business mindset, the Town continues to invest in ways to enhance the local economy and attract investment. Backed by initiatives like the Community Improvement Plan, the Manufacturing Acceleration Program – an initiative to encourage technology adoption, transit projects, and residential, commercial and industrial expansion, Tillsonburg provides fertile ground for economic endeavours.

The town’s strategic location along Highway 401 in the heart of the globally competitive advanced manufacturing region of Southwestern Ontario provides market access without the associated costs of larger centres.

Tillsonburg construction at all-time high with initiatives to attract residential, commercial and industrial investment


Vaughan is reinvigorating its downtown core; it’s created subcommittee Vaughan Metropolitan Centre to focus on unleashing the potential of that business area – and that can only be good news for business owners. Development targets for the area are being met early, and plans continue for new services that will bring residents and visitors to the downtown region, like a new library branch, YMCA, and a community kitchen. Transit that connects Vaughan to Toronto creates new opportunities for growth, and the arrival of a Niagara University campus to Vaughan signals its ongoing success.


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