New Thunder Bay economic index report to help decision-makers

Thunder Bay's economy isn't doing quite as well as the rest of Ontario, but it's not all doom and gloom.

Thunder Bay Ventures launches new Economic Activity Index

Thunder Bay's economy isn't doing quite as well as the rest of Ontario, but it's not all doom and gloom.

Camillo Lento said that's the picture painted by the city's new Economic Activity Index — a publication unveiled today by Thunder Bay Ventures.

The accounting professor at Lakehead University helped design the index.

Camillo Lento is an associate professpr with Lakehead University's Faculty of Business Administration. (Cathy Alex/CBC)
​Camillo said it combines statistics like employment numbers, retail sales, and average housing resale prices to give an overall rating of the city's economic health.

“When we look at the index, we see that Thunder Bay didn't experience as significant an economic crash during the credit crisis,” he said.

“However, we haven't really recovered, or went past our pre-credit crisis highs, whereas Ontario has. So, it's kind of a mixed bag.”

Lento says an index like this can be very useful in determining future economic development priorities.

Camillo Lento and Thunder Bay Ventures manager Royden Potvin created the index based on a Conference Board of Canada methodology.

Royden Potvin, manager of Thunder Bay Ventures, says the city's new Economic Activity Index is based on statistics like employment, retails sales and housing costs. (Cathy Alex/CBC)
"We looked at different measures that would give us a snapshot of different areas of the economy,” Lento continued.

“So when we look at retail sales we're looking at disposable income. When we look at employment insurance and total employment we're looking at the employment sector. When we look at the rent, [we're looking at] the affordability of homes from a renter's perspective. [When] we look at the resale market, we're looking at the housing market so we have three broad areas we're looking at."

Potvin said similar indicators are used in large cities like Toronto to help shape economic development.

“Rather than just saying 'Oh, a certain industry isn't important anymore', we can put some facts around that and that is quite important. It leads to better policy decisions and better outcomes.”

The decision to develop an Economic Activity Index grew from the recommendations of a Thunder Bay Ventures 2013 study, Poised for Development ... Ready For Growth.

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