By Kristen Frisa
Special to Ontario Construction Report
Smiths Falls is doing well, and the world is taking notice.
A decade ago, the town was being ravaged by economic depletion: Hershey pulled up roots in the community first, in 2008. Two more of the town’s largest employers followed suit within a two-year period.
But that’s all changed. Smiths Falls is now home to internationally renowned companies who are growing operations.
Jennifer Miller, manager of economic development and tourism, says the tide started to turn with the arrival of Tweed in 2014. Tweed is a cannabis facility that has since become Canada’s first publicly traded medical cannabis company on the Toronto Venture Exchange, the first licenced cannabis company to offer products across the country, and has opened up a visitor centre to educate people about the benefits of its products.
Miller says when Tweed arrived in town, they wanted to use a portion of the Hershey plant, and thought they might create 100 jobs.
“The council of the day was so pleased to hear that,” Miller says, “They thought they would find other people to take up the rest of the plant.” However, Tweed has grown quickly, using up all of the remaining space. They’re also building a bottling plant across the road, in anticipation of the legalization of edible cannabis products. A far cry from the 100 jobs they hoped to create, the company now provides about 1.200 jobs, with a projection to reach 2,000 by the end of the year, Miller says.
Tweed got a lot of attention across Canada and internationally, and it was all good news for Smiths Falls. But it’s not the only good news.
International luxury houseboat company Le Boat has 16 boats in its Smiths Falls location, which acts as their North American headquarters. An additional four boats just arrived for the 2019 season, Miller says. “International media attention as a result of their arrival has been fantastic,” Miller says of Le Boat.
Miller says each bit of good news has fed into more promise for the economy in Smiths Falls. “It’s been a perfect storm,” she says.
While building never fully came to a halt during those tough years, it’s taking off now, with many and varied projects happening around the community. Miller mentions construction of Bellamy Farm, a new subdivision for the area, as well as renovations to the Settlers Ridge Centre, increased commercial area on Lombard Street, and the remodel of 118-year-old Rideau Hotel, which will now house apartments.
“There’s a lot of construction and economic activity going on in Smiths Falls,” Miller says. “We’ve been very grateful for our existing developers. They’ve been investing in our community slowly and steadily through a difficult time, so we’re hoping this is paying off for everybody now.”
Miller says the town is working hard to show the world it’s ready for growth. “We don’t have any development charges right now,” Miller says. “That makes it quite appealing for developers to come in.”
Businesses already in Smiths Falls can benefit from local programs, too. The Community Improvement Plan (CIP) helps downtown businesses revitalize their look by improving their facades or signage, or to restore or renovate their buildings.
Smiths Falls is also changing its downtown area to make it more accessible to pedestrians, including redeveloping Beckwith Street to make the area more enjoyable for residents of the downtown and to support a growing restaurant industry.
“We’re really trying to show the broader business that we’re open for business and ready for them,” Miller says.