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The Blue Mountains Advantage

The Blue Mountains is located just west of Collingwood in Grey County. The Town runs from Osler Bluff Ski Club, along the escarpment to Georgian Bay, west through the Beaver Valley, Thornbury and Lora Bay.

The area is comprised of two major sectors, agriculture and tourism, but also includes a broad range of service, retail and several large manufacturers.

When surveyed area businesses as part of our 2014 Business Retention and Expansion Study, business identified the following benefits to locating in The Blue Mountains:

  • Quality of life, lifestyle
  • Support from local residents
  • Availability of health and medical services
  • Most local government services were rated Good to Excellent
  • Quality of life,
  • Location – recreation attractions, beauty, proximity to GTA
  • Demographics – retirees with disposable income

Interestingly, we are seeing a large influx of families with young school age children, leaving the GTA to experience the many benefits of the area.

When the study was conducted in 2014, 89% of surveyed businesses planning on expanding their business. There was the potential to add over 60,000 square feet of space for retail, manufacturing and services, with plans to grow by 135 jobs. Over 60% believed they would see an increase in sales.

The most significant business project has been Thornbury Square which includes:

Several communities are being built out and we anticipate about 400+ units will be added in the next year or two.

The main street of Thornbury is being refreshed with many local businesses making significant enhancement to their buildings, for example:

  • A large mural over The Loft Gallery
  • A refurbishment of a landmark building, taking down brick and re-using it in an expansion, adding back in the historical window profile
  • The above building also added 3 suites for short-term rental and a community room and patio
  • Conversion of the former LCBO into retail and apartments
  • The spectacular development of Thornbury Cider, adding production capacity, revamping its branch around Thornbury and adding tasting rooms and a patio

Blue Mountain Resort and Blue Mountain Village is also seeing a significant expansion:

Extensive improvements to over 60 green spaces on the Blue Mountain Village property, as well as revamped splash pads and a play area.

It’s been another record setting year in The Blue Mountains:

  • Since 2015 the Town has seen an increase of 200% in dwelling permits issued year-over-year through to April 302017, a 41% increase over 2016
  • Total permits are up 130% over 2015, and 66% over 2016
  • The estimated construction value of permits issued year-to-date, is $34 million, a 50% increase over the last two years
  • So far in 2017, the Town has six new major developments that will be in the construction phase this year and these six developments represent over 400 new units or lots

There are additional development proposals that have received approval before this year that are also being built out as well as a number of individual residential and commercial activities not directly related to a major development.

As Ontario’s largest apple growing region, The Blue Mountains is selling apples as far away as Dubai. The quality of the apples grown in this region is attracting buyers from China and into the US as well. The Red Prince apple is grown exclusively in The Blue Mountains and has become synonymous with the region. On-farm businesses such as the well-known TK Ferri Orchards Market are also increasing.

Roost, a new winery in Redwing was added this year, and Georgian Hills Winery added two ciders to their selection of wines, all offered through the LCBO. There is also a distillery being added to the mix, and it is clear that beer, wine and spirits will continue to be strong business going into the next several years.

Cash crops and cattle round out the mix, with the Town’s agricultural operations seeing steady expansion.

The Planning and Development Services team is hard at work to meet this demand. The last three years have seen a lot of change in the department. After restructuring and changing the planning application process, the Town is now able to bring businesses through the process much more efficiently – with fewer surprises.

The Director of Planning and Development, has brought development engineering into the Planning and Development Services Department to streamline processes and provide focus. Restructuring on the Building team separated Building from By-law to again provide more focus on development. The Town's Chief Building Official is particularly proud of his team for being able to keep up with the growing demand.

“With growth at an all-time high, we have to ask more of our staff, and they have delivered. With a new Official Plan, which took significant community consultation and effort, we are now positioned to look toward the future,” said the Director of Planning and Development Services.

Given the level of growth, a lot of the economic development work being done in the Town is on helping local businesses grow. The Town works with over 20 organizations and working groups to help achieve the Town’s economic goals. Whether it is the Grey County Economic Development Taskforce, or the South Georgian Bay Economic Developers, the end goal is the same – to help businesses in the area be successful. Projects this year will focus on supporting further tourism growth, local food and culinary businesses, agri-business support, business communication and development and addressing workforce issues.

In any community, rapid growth can create pressures.  The Communications and Economic Development Coordinator says that,

“A true community is one where business and residents coexist harmoniously. I think to a large extent we have achieved that. The businesses who choose to locate here by and large come for the overall live/work/plan experience, so they have a stake in preserving the small Town feeling.”

Our Community Growth Plan provides more detail on anticipated growth. However, local resident population is only half the story, with at least 50% choosing the Town as a second home.

With tourism innovators adding value to the region, strong agri-business operators and unique dining and culinary offerings that you just can’t find anywhere else, The Blue Mountains is not feeling “blue”. As one resident and business owner recently told the Executive Assistant to the CAO;

“I just have to tell you how well your Town is doing. I visited the Planning Department, the permit counter (Building) and Public Works, and they made it so easy to get things done. Other Towns can make it hard to do things, but your staff made it easy and I just feel it is important to let people know when they have done a good job.”


Contacts

Economic Development & Communications
519-599-3131 x282