PAGE B6 – September 2010 – The GTA Construction Report
Orillia thrives with new University, sports facilities construction
ODCA encourages training in construction trades
MARK BUCKSHON – The GTA Construction Report Special Feature
Illustration of Lakehead University’s new LEED® at the Orillia campus.
Platinum Academic Building
The City of Orillia and its local construc- tion industry are looking forward to a bright future as the Simcoe County community de- velops into a significant educational and busi- ness hub. A full-scale Lakehead University campus is under construction as cultural and recre- ational facilities, including a new twin-pad sports complex, near completion. The current construction activity for the city of approxi- mately 40,000 between Lake Couchiching and Lake Simcoe, 135 km north of Toronto, is likely to fuel even more commercial and com- munity development as students and profes- sors make Orillia their home. Dan Landry, Orillia’s Manager of Eco- nomic Development, says the community has a balanced economy with a diversity of em- ployers. “We don’t have one big company which, if it goes down, the whole city goes down.”
Businesses serving the tourism industry
(the largest local employer is Casino Rama) co-exist with government and institutional services like the Ontario Provincial Police provincial headquarters, and high technology manufacturers including Kuboda, which pro- duces high pressure castings for the gas and petrochemical engineering and a General Elec- tric division, which manufactures precision aerospace engines.
Local contractors, sub-trades and suppliers, members of the Orillia and District Construc- tion Association (ODCA), say the local econ- omy suffered like the rest of Ontario last year as the recession bit into real estate and con- struction markets, but the economy has re- bounded in 2010.
Green roof installation at Lakehead University’s new Academic Building on University Avenue.
“The University is going to bring a lot of people and infrastructure to the area,” says ODCA President Trevor Walker. While most local contractors don’t have the bonding ca- pacity and scale (or in some cases, collective bargaining agreements) to participate in multi- million dollar projects like the University and the West Orillia Sports Complex (both of which are being built by EllisDon), the indi- rect benefits of these projects will live on for years in the future, Walker said. “There’ll be need for housing, renovations, and new busi- nesses will arrive to serve the expanded popu- lation.”
Landry says construction has boomed in the past year. “Residential construction at $9.5 million in building permits is more than nine times what it was last year,” he said. He said his office is receiving inquiries from people
considering building student housing and fa- cilities associated with the Lakehead Campus – even as the university builds its own student residence.
Commercial and institutional building per- mits have also increased significantly. (Much of the increase is a recovery from the sharp de- cline in 2008-2009.)
Landry says Orillia is an ideal community to raise a family with abundant recreational fa- cilities. With the arrival of a full University campus, young people no longer need to leave the area for post-secondary education. As well, says Walker, the construction com- munity is rallying behind plans for a new High School with a program specifically focused on the construction trades. “We’re looking forward to having a school with a High Skills Majors Program,” Walker said. “We would really like to build on what has been happening at Patrick Forgarty High School and create a truly enhanced facility when the two existing high schools are closed down and merged into the new building. “With a focus on the trades, we’ll have a world-class facility for specialization and de- veloping apprentices to the next level,” he said. Walker says so far his company, R & F Construction – Disaster Kleenup, which spe- cializes in insurance restorations and repairs, has not seen any negative consequences be- cause of the introduction of the Harmonized Sales Tax. He sees a healthy future for the construction industry in the Orillia area. So does the Real Estate Investment Net- work (REIN) which has referenced Simcoe Shores (including both Orillia and Barrie) as one of the best places in Canada to invest in real estate. “People who want that small-town feel with the amenities of a major city like Toronto less than an hour and a half away have seen the benefits of Orillia and moved to the city,” the report says. “We’re really growing as an education cen- tre,” Landry told the Orillia Packet and Times. “There’s a real demand for student housing and investors see that.”
Landry says Orillia is continuing to im- prove its facilities. “We’ve got some major re- development going on with the waterfront parks and recreation” he said. “With the Uni- versity and its new state-of-the-art library, recreational facilities up to standard, and the huge expansion of the regional hospital, the community’s table is set for further growth.” “Every single community promotes ‘qual- ity of life’,” he said. “We can show it.”
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