City enjoying good times

Bonnie Belec
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Councillor says prosperity is paving the way for future generations

City of St. John’s Ward 3 Coun. Bruce Tilley, chairman of the capital city’s economic development, tourism and culture committee, holds the city’s latest economic report on Cape Spear Drive Monday afternoon with the city’s downtown core in the background. — Photo by Joe Gibbons/The Telegram

A St. John’s councillor finds it hard to contain his pride when he discusses the prosperity the region is experiencing.

Armed with the latest economic outlook for the St. John’s metro region (which includes neighbouring communities), Coun. Bruce Tilley flips though pages of the document quoting statistics that paint a positive picture for metro and the many sectors that drive a healthy economy.

“Retail trade is up. Personal income is up. We’ve had the largest increase in median family income (among major Canadian cities between 2006 and 2010) of more than $15,000. Total employment is gone up by 10,000 jobs over the past three years. And St. John’s share of the total provincial (gross domestic product) is about 50 per cent,” he beamed Monday.

“I don’t think people realize this,” Tilley told The Telegram.

Developed twice a year by city staff, the State of the Economy report outlines several projects in St. John’s underway at a cost of more than $500 million (not all projects are listed,) ranging from the construction of new hotels and office buildings to upgrades at St. John’s International Airport and the expansion of the St. John’s Convention Centre.

This type of development alone will put the city in a different ball game, says the chairman of Destination St. John’s.

“It’s going to create a bit of a different market for us,” said Larry Laite.

“(It will) open markets that we couldn’t get into previously because the centre wasn’t big enough. The market right now is thriving from a hoteliers perspective,” he said, adding there are groups who have bookings for the convention centre as soon as it is finished.

Tilley said the tendering deal states that the expansion has to be complete by Dec. 31, 2015.

Laite says Tilley is not blowing the city’s prosperity out of proportion and the completion of the convention centre will help create a destination to be reckoned with.

“We’re in a time that is unprecedented for us,” he said.

“The expansion was kind of like a double-edged sword, though. You need  the bigger space to attract the bigger conventions and with the bigger space you need the additional (hotel) capacity,” he said.

Council and developers are attempting to solve the low vacancy rate with the construction of several hotels over the next year or two.

“That is the reason why we went flat out with the encouragement for the hotels to be built,” said Tilley, adding once they are complete the city should be able to accommodate the near-zero vacancy rate visitors experience at peak times in the city.

Tilley says billion-dollar projects such as the Hebron offshore oil development, the Lower Churchill project, the South White Rose extension and the Iron Ore Co. of Canada mine expansion in Labrador all make significant investments in the province and boost the local economy.

“If it weren’t for these developments around the province, many of the St. John’s-based services and supplies that are here, the offshoots of the oil and gas and mining industries wouldn’t be here, and the impact of having them here is significant and instrumental to the city’s development,” he said.

Tilley said it is the spinoffs from these projects that have allowed the city to invest in its own projects, upgrade old infrastructure and make improvements to parks — all of which have helped cast a different light on the city to the world.

“Perceptions are changing and everyone can see it,” he said.

“For many years, the city of St. John’s wasn’t looked at as a key city in Canada. Now it is one of the top cities in the country with lots of things going on in the economy, and the quality of life can’t be touched.

“So all of these things have been able to be enhanced and are continuing to be enhanced with the help of industry and spinoffs,” Tilley said.

 It is the construction projects generated indirectly from the mining and oil and gas projects that are helping the city maintain a positive outlook in the eyes of the Atlantic Provinces Economic Council (APEC).

Fred Bergman is senior policy analyst with APEC.

He told The Telegram Monday a review of the economic indicators for the city showed employment was down slightly in March — 0.9 per cent — but it is still early in the year.

“It was a little bit of a slowdown there, but if you have a tough winter in the city it can slow employment growth. But once the snow melts and things thaw and construction starts, employment starts to pick up again,” said Bergman.

One of the indicators Tilley and the city’s report identified as being positive is the fact the region recorded its 11th consecutive population increase.

More than 28,000 people have moved into the metro region since 1986.

Bergman said the population growth looks fairly positive.

“People moving to urban areas creates an economy in and of itself, like a self-sustaining economy, and when you got a strong income growth in the mining, gas and oil sectors that’s going to lead to strong wages, which leads to strong retail sales and a lot of spinoffs from that, which is showing up in the housing market,” he said.

All of this, Tilley added, makes for a healthy, vibrant city not only for the people living in it today, but for their children.

“From our perspective it’s the jobs. There have been so many people leaving, but there’s so much activity now and in the future there will be an opportunity to keep our young people here,” he said.

“I think when you look at all of this you have to look at it from a young person’s perspective as well.

“Is there a future for a young person in this city? Yes, a tremendous future,” Tilley said.


Organizations: International Airport, Convention Centre, APEC Iron Ore Co. of Canada

Geographic location: Hebron, Labrador, Canada

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Recent comments

  • Christopher Chafe
    April 23, 2013 - 16:29

    “Is there a future for a young person in this city? Yes, a tremendous future,” Tilley said. In what bloody industry? Please tell me that!!! Certainly not in the IT sector, the Research and Development Sector, the Financial Sector!!! No Mr. Tilley the only way a young person today has any sort of future in this province is to enter into the Oil and Gas Sector or the Tourism Sector, as MY CITY could care less about everyone else!!!!!

    • Peter
      April 24, 2013 - 09:21

      As a 30y/o who is educated and employed in St. John's, I beg to differ. I see many acquaintances who either lack sufficient education, or who lack the drive to use their education sufficiently and creatively make similar complaints. The fact is, of course, it doesn't matter how many opportunities some people are given - they will not go out there and make things happen, but they will complain quite loudly when nobody shows up on their doorstep with a job, nobody shows up to dress them professionally and take them to work, nobody shows up to force them to take care of their own bodies, minds, and finances. The entitlement is amazing among many - yet they just don't seem to get it. You need to get off your __ and take care of yourself, get out there and network, get out there with the right attitude and stop expecting the world to come to you. If you look and act like a loser, who is gonna want to hire you? Lie in bed and complain about it on a message board - is that going to help you get a job?

    • Christopher Chafe
      April 24, 2013 - 09:50

      Peter, with all due respect you do not know me, I do have a job (in my field Information Technology), NO ONE HANDED ME A JOB AND I MOST CERTAINLY AM NOT ENTITLED. Perhaps you should get your rose colored glasses off your eyes and look at the rest of this great Country of ours and see how much better off cities of comparable size are doing when it comes to economic diversification.

    • Peter
      April 24, 2013 - 20:43

      So Chris, you have a job in St. John's in IT yet you are also arguing that it is impossible for a young person to find a job in IT in St. John's? Which is it buddy? Also, you seem to know more about my travel plans then I do... I guarantee you that St. John's is not as depressed as many other cities in Canada right now. Maybe you should come out of your XXL box and look at an American city for comparison? Yeah, the depression didn't feel very good there - and its not over. Count yourself lucky to be in NL buddy (or leave and lighten the load for the rest of the island). Entitlement and pessimism never helped anyone. And yeah, I stand by my argument: its easier for you to lie in bed with your bucket of chicken and complain about how tough your life is on a message board, then it is to actually go out there and make a difference. St. John's is a great city to live in - its up to you, however, to be active.

  • Ed
    April 23, 2013 - 14:41

    Well, if we are doing all that well, with the increased tax revenue that all these new people and business will be paying, how come our civic taxes are going up so much? Get over yourselves and start to manage the city properly.

  • Turry from town
    April 23, 2013 - 14:41

    Great news Tilley,with all the so called prosperity you talk about,maybe my property taxes can go down?

  • Mindy
    April 23, 2013 - 11:46

    Why are comments always negative. Yes the city is growing, yes it comes with high rental, yes is will still have proverty. What place in this country can prosper and everything be like a bed of roses. Reality check!! Yes people still work 40 hours a week and most of them have to live within their means and some times rob peter to pay paul but what does that have to do with the city growing? Why can we not just say "wonderful for the city"

    • John Smith
      April 23, 2013 - 14:45

      ...because most of the losers who post here are sitting in mommy's basement, sucking on a pizza pop, and blaming the world for their own's not their fault...oh's the tory government...LMAO....

    • Happily Retired
      April 23, 2013 - 20:56

      You're absolutely right! We should bow our heads in deference when the Great Creator Tilley climbs upon his soapbox and regurgitates reports from the Provincial Government. All the while acting as if his mumblings at Council meetings were the reason for these positive indicators. The indicators are indeed "wonderful for the city." It's his playing politics which is most annoying, especially when retired people on fixed incomes or unemployed youth are the last thing on his pea sized brain. Unfortunately, this story is more about petty politics than reporting good news, and he thinks people can't see through it.

  • Saucy Face
    April 23, 2013 - 11:24

    Holy crap boys, get over yourselves! If a government says things are bad you go off your heads, if a government says things are good you go off yor heads. As for the baymen complaining about someone elses good fortune, that's in your blood cause if Jarge across the road in Black Arse Tickle has a better fence than yours, you go off your heads.

  • saelcove
    April 23, 2013 - 10:25

    This from a bunch who part of the 1%

  • Jim
    April 23, 2013 - 10:25

    This guy sounds like he is on one of the more dangerous new powerful street drugs around town, the users of which are committing violent crimes and generally scaring the life out of everyone. And the statement "the quality of life can't be touched" proves he has never been out of the province without a pair of those horse blinders wrapped around his head, reciting "mainland is bad, mainland is bad, mainland is bad" over and over.

  • Doug
    April 23, 2013 - 10:14

    Sure Tilley...Tell that to the 1200+ people that just got laid off!!

  • Bay Boy
    April 23, 2013 - 08:47

    If you have any crumbs left over please send them out our way please. Why is all the wealth in NL and all the big projects based on the Avalon Peninsula?

    • Bob
      April 23, 2013 - 10:08

      Because that's where the brains are

  • Jay
    April 23, 2013 - 08:22

    What's laughable, is that council is actually taking credit for this upsurge in the economy. In reality all they need is the sense to get out of the way, but I'm not sure they have it. Notwithstanding, and in light of how well we're doing, how about some kind of a "prosperity dividend" for the homeowners of the city. We're the ones who've bailed out councils when things were going poorly. That sounds better to me than "Doc's gazebo and skating rink" or a million dollar fence.

  • Jackie
    April 23, 2013 - 08:10

    Oh, its such a wonderful time to be the working poor. Its so wonderful to work 40++ hours a week to have to decide where the money should go this week-rent or groceries. Its such a wonderful time to know that no matter how hard I work, home ownership is now out of the question. Thank you.

  • Michelle
    April 23, 2013 - 08:06

    I think mr. tilley needs to open his much poverty on this city...ridiculous. ..reports like this feed the greed...rental rates will sky rocket again. thanks!!

  • martin
    April 23, 2013 - 07:28

    this much prosperity and council are still bleeding the taxpayers.People in Goulds had to wait for the Feds. and Provincial gov. to make a substantial contribution for us to get our first foot of sidewalk on the main road where our children travel for school.

  • Brian
    April 23, 2013 - 07:24

    Thank god for the workers who fly 350-500 kms offshore every day may be it is time to give them a break to as in "Tax Break".

  • john Smith
    April 23, 2013 - 06:47 cue all the NDP and Liberals...with their doomsday scenarios, and down in the mouth attitudes. They will tell us how there should be free housing, and how bad it is outside the overpass. Of course they will also say that the investment of 90 million in the CB mill is also bad, as well as the new hospitals, and new schools being built on the west coast, and in Labrador. Yes, guys...we all know how bad it keep reminding us everyday...

    • Torey Nomore
      April 23, 2013 - 10:01

      Ok, you've had your post for the day; now go back to work Paul and take Steve with you. Do you guys ever put in a productive day? The Tory talent pool is so shallow that even your leader has no confidence in you guys; you've both been passed over by the likes of the current assembly of ministers of the clown. Enjoy it while you can because you two coat-tail politicians will be ousted next election.

    • Little Man Dan
      April 23, 2013 - 10:15

      Is this the best you can do Johnny? Who wrote these briefing notes for you? Sad an pathetic, you lapdog lackie.