Moncton Paces Eastern Canadian Communities in Growth, Among Moncton's 2007 Economic Performance Highlights

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The City of Moncton has established a comfortable national brand as a consistently expanding economic growth centre on Canada's east coast.

Looking back on Moncton's 2007 economic performance numbers and achievements, illustrates why Moncton has developed this national "growth brand". This achievement became more evident as the City of Moncton closed off another consecutive year of significant tax base expansion and overall strong economic performance throughout every industry and market sector of the City.

Early in the year, the first results from the 2006 census set the tone for the confident mood for this growing city of 126,000 plus, as it officially became NB's largest urban area (as one of Canada's newest Census Metropolitan Area designations).

January 2007 published news reports highlighted an analysis of the 2006 census data by Canadian Demographics 2007 - the Financial Post's 80th annual demographics guide to almost all market areas in the country, which suggested that the City of Moncton was on the rise over other metro areas in New Brunswick.

Based on their analysis, local press sources predicted that Metro Moncton with the City of Moncton at its core, would become New Brunswick's dominant city over the next decade. The press report went on to profile Moncton favourably in comparison to other Atlantic Canadian municipal centers.

Moncton's estimated growth rate (EGR) between the last census in 2001 and the end of 2007 outstrips the national average - 1.23 per cent compared to .97 per cent - and also dominates in Atlantic Canada, perhaps to the surprise of those who might have assumed the Halifax Regional Municipality is the fastest- growing community in the region. In fact, Metro Moncton's EGR is almost double the Halifax rate of .76 per.

Moncton's new CMA status as a population hub of the Maritimes, joins a list of hub designations including a new and emerging role as an entertainment hub for big name attractions and international tourism events, along with significant expansion of businesses locating in Moncton's industrial parks.

From international singing sensations Faith Hill and Tim McGraw who created a magical musical extravaganza at Moncton's tourism park, Magnetic Hill, to claiming one of North America's premium beer brands as a manufacturing home plant by Molson Canada; Moncton had a consistent year of achievement for 2007.

Moncton's recognition as a municipal growth brand comes not only from the high profile, public events which captured the national entertainment and business news headlines, as it is fueled by the every day, consistent year over year performance of building permit volumes. In every direction of the compass, Moncton is building up and extending buildings and streets out as it responds to population growth and expansion of its retail, commercial and industrial sectors.

The building permits tell the Moncton economic development story in the same manner that a thermometer tells the temperature. In 2007, Moncton posted a total dollar amount of building permits in the amount of $132 million, which is almost evenly split between commercial -industrial projects and a mix of new and expanding residential configurations. The 2007 number is down slightly from a record 2006, which hit $152 million as a total for the City of Moncton.

These two building permit annual numbers are part of a series of consecutive $100 million plus years for Moncton's building permits that stretches back to 2002, when Moncton kicked of the new millennium with a then record of $145 million in recorded building permits, which was a doubling of permits over the year before.

In historical perspective, Moncton was acknowledged as a growing municipal economy in the late 1990's and developing its national branding as a growth centre in Atlantic Canada, but nothing cemented Moncton's surprising emergence as an eastern Canadian growth centre like the near doubling of building permits between the years 2001 and 2002.

To put Moncton's building permit achievements into trending perspective, and looking back over a ten year span, in 1998 Moncton's building permits were at $48 million. Over the next two years the annual building permit volume grew to two consecutive subsequent years of $58 million, then surging to $79 million and then doubling in 2002, to $145 million.

Moncton crossed over the $100 million threshold for building permits and hasn't looked back as the City has consistently posted $100 million plus building permit volumes on an annual basis.

However, it is not only the specialized trades, sub-contractors and general contractors who are reporting steady demand for building improvements and new construction quotes, but the growing number of retail stores and accommodation providers that keep Moncton positioned as a hub of enterprise and growth that are also reporting strong sales volumes and business location success.

As a provincial population hub, during 2007 Moncton started to get used to its new national designation as a Census Metropolitan Area (CMA), which allows the southern New Brunswick residential community area and rural population surrounding the City of Moncton to be included in an enhanced analysis of demographics and economic indicators that community leaders say will allow Moncton to better reveal its core attraction as a beneficial place to live and do business. The CMA designation provides an enhanced profile of Moncton's economic vitality by the numbers used by decision makers to choose preferred locations for business expansion.

One of the first data sets released from the 2006 Census presented Monctonians with another image of growth and sustained development when Moncton was publicized as being near the top of the CMA pack when it comes to population growth.

In mid-2007, local press reports announced that Statistics Canada released the first numbers from the 2006 census, and Moncton CMA, with an addition of almost 8,000 people, is tied for 10th place with Vancouver for percentage of population growth since the last federal census in 2001. There are 33 CMA's in Canada.

But the numbers for CMA Moncton build an enhanced statistical view of Moncton that Monctonians have been feeling and experiencing over the past decade as the City and region is transformed by growth and development each year.

A few economic indicators that explain the Moncton of today: • A CMA population of 126,420, representing a positive change from 2001 to 2006 of 6.5 percent. • A population that is by age sector almost evenly divided in age segments with 20,000 plus under 14 years of age and the two seniors categories of 55-54 and 65+ in the mid teens each of population volume; and, • for Moncton's retail advantage, the active age earning and retail spending groups of 14 +, up to age 54 is evenly divided and boasting strong retail spend numbers.

A drive through any of Moncton's retail shopping complexes reveal full parking lots during all seasonal retail events and the numbers back up the perception of retail growth and activity in all the new stores and outlets springing up around Moncton.

By economic performance numbers for Moncton's healthy economy, total estimated income of the Moncton CMA for 2007 ($ millions) was $3,516 while the Moncton Economic Region posted $5,085 , which then translates into retail sales for Moncton CMA of $2,248 and correspondingly for the Moncton Economic Region of $2,738 .

The CMA figures provide a snap shot of how Moncton achieves the performance it offers as a business location. What powers Moncton is the average household income of $63,925, with the family income number coming in at $71,621, and a per capita income level of $26,225 . These numbers translate to disposable income per household recorded at $48,961, and discretionary income per household of $16,442.

The average household expenditures are recorded at $63,012 and the resulting breakdown of the CMA Moncton statistics reveal Moncton as an attractive place to live and raise a family with a balance of cost inputs and requirements that contribute to making Moncton an affordable location.

A further understanding of Moncton by the numbers comes from the Moncton CMA breakdown on mother tongue language by percentage with English at 62%, French at 35% and other languages accounting for 2%, while 1% recorded both languages as mother tongue for a total of 100%.

All of these indicators paint a picture of Moncton by averages and numbers, but where these numbers become a reality beyond the retail shopping markets and parking lots is in the strong local housing and real estate market place in Moncton and region.

For 2007, real estate was a vibrant and strong marketplace to be either a buyer or seller as the numbers below for the year indicate including: • 2007 residential unit sales were up 11% over 2006. • 2007 average sale price is up 8.7% over 2006. • The number of active residential listings at the end of December was down 11% from December of 2006.

The area covered by the Greater Moncton Real Estate Board is the most active real estate market in New Brunswick, according to a report in a local real estate blog, written by one of Moncton's veteran real estate agents. The numbers calculated are based on residential units which include single family detached homes, semi-detached, condominiums, mini homes, recreational properties, duplexes and triplexes. Both existing and new construction properties are included.

The average price of the units being transacted as a 12 month average in 2007 was $139,950, which represents an increase over the 12 month average for 2006 per unit at $ 128,746.

Moncton hit a number of high notes in 2007 as a regional entertainment hub as the Moncton Coliseum drew a large spring time audience for Speed Sport East, which reported record numbers of visitors from all over the Maritimes, which then set the stage for another car culture celebration, the annual Grand Nationals in July.

The outdoor summer celebration in Downtown Moncton and nearby Centennial Park area set an all time record attendance for registered show vehicles, visitors from all over North America and lead to this community impact analysis, following the event by City of Moncton business specialist Ben Champoux, who was asked to put the visitor rich event into perspective from an economic development point of view.

(July 2007 newspaper report) Champoux says local restaurants and bars have reported that the Atlantic Nationals weekend was their busiest of the year. While there is still no way of determining exactly how big an economic impact the Atlantic Nationals had on Metro Moncton, Champoux says all indications point to tremendous short-term and long-term windfalls.

"Although we don't have the specific numbers, there seem to be more cars coming from outside the region", said Champoux "and there are people coming here for longer periods of time, and that would lead to more money being spent in our economy."

Fine weather helped give this year's event the push it needed. Those sunrays helped create lasting memories for visitors whom Champoux believes will become ambassadors for the region.

"It affects Moncton as a whole because of the visibility that it creates," he says. "Those that were here from out of town, they go back and promote the area because of the good time that they had and that's priceless," he said.

Furthermore, Champoux says the economic impact of the Atlantic Nationals is amplified when combined with the slew of other events that take place here during the summer months.

"Every time you have your name out there, be it because you are hosting Rolling Stones, be it because you're hosting Tim McGraw and Faith Hill, it shows that there are lots of good things going on in Moncton and, for the out- of-towners, it creates a brand name."

And that brand name helps attract visitors as much as investment, says Champoux, as it enhances our can-do attitude in Moncton, that things are happening, that we're open for business and that when we do something, we generate top-notch events.

While Moncton continues to pursue expansion to its meeting and conventions capacity with downtown development plans for integrating new accommodations and meeting complex, Moncton's downtown skyline and streetscape began a transformation on a number of fronts during 2007.

As the summer season waned into fall, a new executive level, extended stay hotel, The Marriott Residence Inn began construction on Moncton's east Main Street core area.

The Marriott Residence Inn is a 6-story building including 137 suites and is being designed to attract both family and business travelers. The hotel will be fully equipped with kitchens, complimentary hot breakfast buffet, indoor pool, fitness room as well as parking garage. The Marriott itself is set to be open to the public at the end of June 2008. Also opening in the Marriot is the The Keg restaurant, which is part of a national restaurant chain operating across Canada.

While construction cranes were emerging over the skyline on Moncton's east end of Main Street, at the western end of Main Street, a completely new and re-designed series of connector highways and streets came into alignment and service with the new Moncton-Riverview bridge connecting Vaughn Harvey Blvd with Main Street as a new intersection.

The extension and re-alignment of Vaughn Harvey running in a due south and north mode along with the late in the year opening of the arterial connector street on the Town of Riverview side of the new bridge completed a highway expansion and traffic enhancement that fueled new investment in Downtown Moncton by the Sobey's group for a new and larger $15 million marketplace along with a new NB Liquor store, at the corner of Main St and Vaughan Harvey.

Additional plans call for a re-development of the real estate located around the Highfield Square retail complex. Some years earlier, the VIA Station, which is located within the same area, was renewed and with the addition of the new retail components, Moncton's downtown is taking on the aura of a focused new development.

But new development was also seen in Moncton's industrial parks. Molson was the star of the show with the official opening ceremonies for their new brewery in Caledonia Industrial Estates. Headed on the brewing side by Chairman Eric Molson and the New Brunswick side by Premier Shawn Graham, this was an event spread throughout the community. Other notable new developments, included the new 60,000 sq.ft manufacturing plant of Al-Pack Enterprises, a sparkling new dealership for Peterbilt and the start on a new terminal operation for Keltic Transportation. These and more highlighted the continued growth of the industrial parks.

Moncton by the facts or by a visit to any area of the city is enjoying a vibrant and growing economic performance. Enterprise Greater Moncton (EGM) publicized some of their research late in 2007 and by all their indicators 2007 was a good year for Moncton.

EGM, in their publicity release, stated that while 2006 was a good one for the Moncton area, the numbers for 2007 were promising with the unemployment rate reaching a low of 5.1 per cent, while the labour force participation rate went up. In presenting a snap shot of economic development activity, EGM noted that Moncton was seeing a rise in residential construction of 18.9 per cent, and noted in their release that 835 new jobs were created and 75 new businesses opened shop.

As 2007 drew to a close, the night time sky over Moncton was punctuated with early moving machines running late in the construction season on Mapleton Road with portable floodlights lighting up the nighttime's Christmas seasonal shopping rush on Trinity's Wheeler Park, where another multi unit retail complex of box stores is under construction.

Further down the street, the new Hampton Inn, then beginning under winter construction, expanded their number of rooms from their original plans. This positive act of expanding to accommodate the momentum is representative of how business is done in Moncton and why the community continues to maintain its consecutive year over year growth and expansion.

Perhaps the easiest way to sum up all this economic activity is to simply refer to Moncton's inclusion Canadian Business Magazine's top tier of best Canadian cities for business. We have thought this way for a while, it's nice to see the recognition from others.