Barrie: A remarkable story that needs to be told more – Mayor Jeff Lehman

Gone is the notion Barrie is becoming a bedroom community

Barrie Mayor Jeff Lehman took a stroll down memory lane at his annual Chamber of Commerce luncheon Wednesday.

Lehman took time to reflect on the past decade, suggesting we don’t talk enough about the success the community has seen. He cited job growth, “21 per cent increase in jobs in manufacturing…just in the last five years. Over the 10 years, the total job growth was 26,000 more jobs for more people in our community.”

The jobless rate in Barrie was at 10% in 2010. The most recent Stats Canada report put it at 5.2 per cent.

And the mayor, who grew up in Barrie, looked back to the 90s when plants were closing. Now, they’re expanding. Gone, he said, is the notion Barrie is becoming a bedroom community.

“All you need for business growth is in Barrie”

Lehman cited local ownership of businesses in Barrie, the resources the city has to grow businesses and the diversity of sectors. “If you’re just dependent on a single sector, and you get a recession in that sector, you’re in real trouble…a lot of people lose jobs, there aren’t other jobs to find.” With diversity, he said, it’s easier to survive the tough times.

In terms of residential growth, Lehman spoke of a new pattern of growth. New subdivisions are being modelled after older neighbourhoods, like old Allandale in the east end. “When you drive around those neighbourhoods, there’s a different range of housing types, not just detached houses, but you’ll find small apartment buildings and townhouses. Also, corner stores and parks that are easy to walk to…green space within five minutes of every residence.”

And factor in the quality of life. Lehman said we enjoy the best of what Muskoka and Toronto have to offer. “We are helping grow a community that people want to stay in, which means workforces are more stable and companies are able to attract skilled employees.

When he was done, Lehman implored Barrie’s business leaders to tell their stories, to share their successes with others across Canada – and around the world – who might be inclined to set up shop here.

“We’ve got a great story to tell.”