Low economic growth ahead for Kingston

Kingston’s economy not thriving, but business professor forecasts favourable conditions for students

The service sector makes up 84 per cent of Kingston's economic productivity, business professor Gary Bissonette says.
The service sector makes up 84 per cent of Kingston's economic productivity, business professor Gary Bissonette says.
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Kingston may “lag behind” most of the province economically, but a Queen’s business professor has forecasted relatively positive conditions for part-time or casual workers who live in the area.

Gary Bissonette, assistant professor in the School of Business, presented his projections for the national, provincial and local economies of 2013 at the School’s Business Forecast Luncheon held on Dec. 11 at the Four Points Sheraton.

“We believe that there will be a small drop in unemployment, but we probably won’t recover at the same rate as the rest of the province or Canada overall,” Bissonette said.

Although his presentation forecasted only minor job growth and slightly lower levels of unemployment for 2013, the City’s emphasis on part-time and casual employment and the stable growth of retail sales are good news for students who wish to work off-campus.

“I think that there will probably be ample opportunity for students in terms of part-time casual employment,” Bissonette said.

He added that students can also look forward to benefitting from the loosening of the local rental market.

“Kingston has over the past roughly seven to 10 years has had very little occupancy capability. For the most part, we’ve been running at pretty much full occupancy,” he said. “And I know that that’s created some issues from students in terms of looking for housing.”

Due to a number of new residential projects that have been proposed, Bissonette said he believes accessibility to housing will improve somewhat.

Overall, however, he sees the city experiencing a slow-down in terms of residential and commercial construction, the exception being the two new residence buildings to be constructed on main campus.

The global economy took a hit in 2008 in what some top economists claimed was the worst financial crisis since the depression of the 1930s. The crisis, which lasted from late-2007 to mid-2008, was initially triggered by the bursting of the US housing bubble, and many economies are still recovering.

Kingston’s public administration and government services-based economy may have helped the city weather the storm of the global financial crisis, but it’s that reliance that could be detrimental going forward, according to Bissonette.

His presentation noted that Kingston’s economy lacks “diversity and agility,” with 84 per cent of economic productivity lying in the service sector, compared to 76 per cent for Ontario and 70 per cent for Canada overall.

The strongest growth of the next year will come in the manufacturing sector, Bissonette predicts, but manufacturing will still remain the “smallest sector overall.” Although a yogurt factory set to be built in Kingston was stalled, Bissonette said he’s optimistic that manufacturing will be generated in Kingston.

This manufacturing could occur in the area of watercraft technology, he said.

Ontario’s reliance on manufacturing has contributed to an overall shift in the country’s economic growth movement from central to western Canada, Bissonette said.

This can be attributed to the province’s exports relationship with the financially-troubled US, and the genersl shift in manufacturing away from North America.

“If we take a look at the western provinces, which are much more natural resource-based, the demand for those economies has certainly accelerated globally.” Bissonette said one of the greatest challenges for Kingston moving forward will be cultivating a stronger professional job market.

“Probably the larger concern for Kingston itself lies in its need to create a stronger professional base of … high-skilled positions, positions that pay well and will continue to allow for further economic growth and further job growth,” he said.

He advocates assisting student entrepreneurs, particularly those in the technology and energy sectors, with incubation and fund money as well as “opportunities to link with skilled managers and seasoned advisors.”

“We have the intellectual capacity and the intellectual capital here,” Bissonette said. “We’ve got a lot of bright students, we have a lot of forward thinking research taking place, and so for us it’s simply an opportunity to leverage those skills and those competencies, which many other towns don’t have at their base.”

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