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Barrie's future looks bright: economist

Marg. Bruineman, BARRIE EXAMINER

The future for Barrie looks bright, BMO Financial Group's chief economist told a local group.

Dr. Sherry Cooper, executive vice-resident and chief economist for the financial institution, met with commercial clients in Barrie early Friday talking about the city's financial health.

"We're likely to see 3% growth this year," she said in an interview.

She pointed at the positive economic factors - being part of the Greater Horseshoe area, the city's growth, hospital expansion and affordable housing.

That Barrie is home to a large number of commuters who go south for jobs is now also helping to attract those who are retiring, she said.

"This is a very affordable city, especially in comparison to Toronto," she said. "Many people are retiring to Barrie... and it still gives them access to the big city events."

The city allows for easy assess to the great outdoors.

She points at the 3.9% increase in Barrie house prices over the past year, much lower than the 8% recorded in Toronto. Although a land shortage here is expected to increasing house prices.

One down side is an unemployment rate of 8.8%, while the national unemployment rate dropped to 7.6% from 7.9% Friday.

Cooper attributed that, in part, to the auto parts industry, which has taken a bit of a hit since Japan's massive earthquake and tsunami rocked the country and its manufacturing industry, including car maker Honda.

Honda's Alliston car-building facility has reduced the number of cars it builds because of trouble accessing some parts from Japan. That has affected other local parts manufacturers that supply the car builder in Alliston.

But Cooper expects the projected economic growth in Barrie, combined with eventual improvement in the parts supply situation will result in an improved unemployment rate.

Part of Barrie's strength, she added, is that it's the retail sales and business hub for all of Simcoe County.

Cooper touched on Monday's federal election, which she described as a victory for both the Conservatives and the NDP. She expects with a majority government the Conservatives will pass its budget and the omnibus crime legislation. Reduction of corporate tax rates to 15%, compares to 35% in the United States and will be the lowest in the G7.

And the falling Canadian dollar, she added, has much more to do with falling commodities prices and world events than it does with government, leadership or the election.

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