St. John’s Mayor Dennis O’Keefe gives the annual New Year’s mayor’s address to the Rotary Club of St. John’s during its weekly luncheon at the Sheraton Hotel Newfoundland Thursday. O’Keefe highlighted the major economic developments ongoing, and those on the horizon, for the capital city.
— Photo by Joe Gibbons/The Telegram
If the past is any indication, the future looks bright for St. John’s and the metro area.
Mayor Dennis O’Keefe says a decade of economic growth has launched the City of
St. John’s on its way to becoming the “best city” in Canada by 2021.
Retail trade, employment rates, commercial growth and personal income have all seen steady increases since 2002, O’Keefe said.
In particular, the tourism industry has become a major generator for the city and province, said O’Keefe, and needs to be pursued.
“We have to realize its an industry that’s renewable, and if we cultivate it, we’ll have it for forever and a day,” O’Keefe said.
Unlike the oil industry, tourism is an infinite resource, said O’Keefe, who made his remarks in a speech to the Rotary Club of
St. John’s Thursday.
He pointed to a 66 per cent increase in air passenger traffic at St. John’s International Airport since 2002.
“This is reflective of our strong economy and tourism industry,” O’Keefe said.
In addition, hotel rooms sold have increased by 53.7 per cent in the past decade.
O’Keefe pointed to several other indicators of economic growth, and was particularly proud of growth in the commercial sector and residential downtown development.
“There’s zero vacancy in commercial space right now, but I can guarantee you there isn’t zero demand,” he said.
According to O’Keefe, the building at 351 Water Street, due to be completed in 2014, is almost entirely leased out.
“We’ve got more people living, working, playing, enjoying downtown,” he said.
“We’re a city with a downtown that doesn’t need to be revitalized. We have a lot of vitality, and we’re increasing it.”