Orillia ranks 5th in Canada for real estate investment

Mayor Steve Clark Not Surprised Orillia Great Place to Invest

By Andrew Philips, Special to Postmedia Network

A new study ranks Orillia as the fifth best Canadian city to invest, something that doesn’t surprise Mayor Steve Clarke.

Canadian Property Investor magazine ranked the city fifth for real estate investment, just after Brampton, Richmond Hill, Milton and Barrie.

“I think all of Orillia should be proud of that,” Clarke said. “To be in the top five in all of Canada speaks volumes of what we have in our city. It speaks (to the fact) that we have some undervalued assets. It also has to do with some of the strategic decisions we’ve made.”

According to the report, the city’s move to sell off Orillia Power to Hydro One in return for the creation of a state-of-the-art advanced technology hub could prove to be a winner.

“Economic impact of the construction and related activity is anticipated to inject $200 to $300 million – and new, high-quality, knowledge-based jobs – in the economy,” the report reads. “Add to this, expansion at local Georgian College and Lakehead University campuses, and there seems to be plenty of opportunities for investors.

Orillia is not just a recreation destination anymore!

“Like Barrie, Orillia continues to shake off a reputation as merely a recreational destination, and is helping the region expand a self-sustaining economy.”

Besides the aforementioned advances, Clarke said the city’s also moving forward with the new Costco Wholesale development in west Orillia and a new multi-faceted recreation centre “in the heart of the city, which has created a momentum that is catching the attention of investors.”

The ranking was based on a number of key figures, including vacancy and rental rates, employment, income levels, population and house prices, and included additional insight from experts and investors.

“We’ve certainly seen an increase in development inquiries over the last year,” Laura Thompson, the city’s real estate and commercial development manager, said in a release.

Costco brings jobs to Orillia and more

“Recent announcements have piqued the interest of a number of investors who are looking to leverage the expected increase in traffic from Costco, and new city incentives like the Downtown Tomorrow grant program.”

Clarke said the ongoing waterfront redevelopment and the downtown plan being launched Jan. 1 should also help create an economic spark since it will provide more than $185,000 in matched funding for developments in the city core.

But at least one local entrepreneur isn’t convinced Orillia is a great place to invest given its tax rate.

Donald Porter, who along with a partner is restoring the Geneva Theatre, said he doesn’t expect to make money on the venture, but wanted to create a space for people to enjoy live music.

“I can pay the extra taxes, I’ll write it off,” he said. “I don’t think I’m going to make money. I think Costco’s going to do well since it will take a lot of pressure off Barrie (Costco).”

But Porter said, the city desperately needs a new industry to set up shop for it to ever flourish.

“There are no real jobs here,” he said. “You need real manufacturing jobs. We have high taxes and we’re going to build a recreation centre on a chemical dump.”

Clarke said that while the city’s tax levels are higher than neighbouring townships like Ramara and Severn that don’t offer the same amenities, regular BMA Management Consulting Inc. studies consistently find the ranks are in no way out of whack with similar-sized municipalities.

Orillia – Ready for the Future

As well, he said as prices continue to rise in the Greater Toronto Area and, in turn, Barrie, investors will keep looking further afield.

“Some of these companies coming in will create other opportunities.”