Thunder Bay – BUSINESS – High inflation, interest rates, and housing costs are dampening optimism in Ontario’s post-pandemic economy, according to the Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC). Despite this national trend, many businesses remain confident in their own growth, with Thunder Bay exhibiting some of the highest optimism in the province.
The OCC’s eighth annual Ontario Economic Report (OER) reveals contrasting narratives. Nationally, business confidence in the overall economy has plummeted from 29% to just 13% due to rising costs. However, 53% of surveyed businesses still foresee their own operations growing.
Thunder Bay’s Unique Challenges
Thunder Bay businesses echo national concerns but face additional local hurdles. Charla Robinson, President of the Thunder Bay Chamber of Commerce, highlights “inflationary pressures, changes in consumer spending, and labour challenges” as specific roadblocks to local growth.
“Businesses across Thunder Bay are being faced with inflationary pressures, changes in consumer spending, and labour challenges, which are hampering their growth and recovery.” said Robinson. “This underscores the critical need for government to implement targeted and strategic measures to support businesses through policies such as tax reforms, buy local programs, workforce development and affordable housing.”
Growth Sectors Offer Hope:
While some industries like agriculture, healthcare, and retail struggle, others shine bright. The mining sector, bolstered by strategic investments and population growth, boasts a 46% confidence level. Thunder Bay, heavily reliant on mining, benefits from this national trend, with local businesses exhibiting a 23% confidence rate, among the highest in the province.
The OCC and Thunder Bay Chamber call for targeted government support to help businesses navigate these challenging times. Key recommendations include:
- Tax Reforms: Streamlining business taxes to ease financial burdens.
- Buy Local Programs: Encouraging local procurement to support regional economies.
- Workforce Development: Investing in skills training and development to address labour shortages.
- Affordable Housing: Making housing more accessible to attract and retain workers.
The OER underscores the need for increased productivity to overcome economic uncertainties. With targeted support and strategic investments, both nationally and locally, Ontario businesses can navigate the current challenges and thrive in the post-pandemic world.