A recent municipal study found that almost half of the money Wasaga Beach residents spend on goods and services goes outside the community.
A Commercial Needs Study completed recently by John Winter and Associates found Wasaga Beach residents spend about $130 million within the municipality each year and spend another $110 million in other urban centres.
The consultant calls it leakage – money that is leaking outside of the local economy. According to the report, Wasaga Beach has 45 per cent leakage. That leakage, however, has declined from 58 per cent in 1999, when John Winter and Associates did a similar study.
Last year, the Toronto-based consultant was commissioned to update the Commercial Needs Study.
The municipality set out to learn how much more commercial development local shoppers could support, what type of commercial development is lacking in Wasaga Beach, what types of businesses are missing and what types of businesses will be needed in the future.
John Winter and Associates updated the municipality’s commercial inventory, examined where non-resident shoppers are coming from and conducted 315 telephone interviews with Wasaga Beach residents in October.
Winter recommends Wasaga Beach expand its commercial sector in order to recapture the money being spent outside the community, primarily in Barrie and Collingwood.
He said adding 212,250 square feet of commercial space would mean the addition of 650 jobs, 55 per cent of which should be full-time.
Commercial space has grown from 366,779 square feet in 1999 to 772,124 square feet in 2008. Winter says two-thirds of the growth was due to the construction of three box stores: Wal-Mart, Canadian Tire and The Real Canadian Superstore. The commercial vacancy rate is 3.9 per cent, down from 6.5 per cent in 1999.
"The increase in commercial space means that Wasaga Beach commerce is now retaining 55 per cent of its residents’ expenditures, compared to 42 per cent in 1999," said Winter.
He said considerable leakage remains to be recaptured, particularly in automotive sales and service, furniture and furnishings, home improvements, apparel and restaurants.
"The spending potential of its residents is the greatest sustainable resource that any municipality has. Due to the anticipated population growth, the continuing considerable amounts of leakage, the low vacancy, the proven track record, etc… there is opportunity for more commercial space, more professional offices, more assessment and more jobs," reported Winter.
"There is still the opportunity to provide more commercial space. At least another 20 acres can be expected by 2016, particularly in smaller store and service modules."
Leakage could grow to a possible $164 million in 2016 if no additions are made to the town’s commercial inventory, said Winter.
"Leakage recapture should propel significant commercial building even in a recessionary environment," states the report.
The calculations are based on Wasaga Beach currently having a permanent population of 16,770 and a full-time equivalent population of 21,130 – Winter used an adjusted 2006 Statistics Canada figure placing the population at 15,234, then added a portion of seasonal residents and subtracted a portion of residents who go south for the winter.
Winter notes Wasaga Beach has an unusually high population of seniors and seniors are not the prime consumers – young families are.