Tops in Ontario

Peterborough is aggressively wooing new business investment.

There's more business going on Peterborough, Ont. — a community of 125,000 people, 90 minutes northeast of Toronto — than its sleepy pastoral setting would suggest. Siemens Milltronics, a subsidiary of the German electronics and electrical engineering giant, for example, announced in September that it's transferring one of its production lines there from California. “It's just nine or 10 jobs, but it's engineering jobs and high-tech jobs,” says Jay Amer, general manager of the Greater Peterborough Area Economic Development Corp. Other companies, including General Electric and PepsiCo's Quaker division, the city's two largest employers, have recently added manufacturing and food processing jobs, and five new call centres have opened since 2000, including those of the German airline Lufthansa, AmeriCredit Financial and MCCI, creating at least 1,600 positions. It all goes a long way to explaining why Peterborough's unemployment rate decreased to 4.2% from 9.2%, between 2002 and 2003.

Tim Barrie, president of auto parts supplier Merit Precision Molding, attributes the influx of jobs to the formation of the area's Economic Development Corp. in 1999. Its current focus is the auto parts and food processing industries, but a recent initiative funded by all three levels of government might turn Peterborough into a beehive of DNA-related research and business activity. If successful, the Greater Peterborough Region DNA Cluster — a private-public partnership involving Trent University and Fleming College — could spin off 5,500 jobs for the region in the next 10 to 25 years.

So far, all this activity hasn't meant a longer commute to work for people such as Barrie, who is easily able to go home every day for lunch. But if Peterborough isn't careful, there may be some traffic gridlock in its future.