Realty Executives of Sudbury Ltd.

The Caswell Team

The Caswell Team

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Sudbury's Resiliency

(Published on - 5/20/2020 5:21:19 PM)

Sudbury is our nest, our family, our friends, our neighbours.  It's our home.

Sudbury is iconic on so many levels.  The Superstack that everyone can see passing by on the Trans-Canada highway.  Known for the “must have been” filming location of the "fake" moon landing thanks to our barren landscape in the 70’s.  The place where the “boys are getting stinko” on Saturday nights.  An area inundated with freshwater lakes and rivers.  A per capita hot bed for NHL product and an incredible number of Olympic medals in many sports for a city of our size.  A place where we complain daily about the weather, city council and road construction only to apologize for doing so while offering the person who had to listen to you “a cold one”.

We’ve travelled the world and, for some bizarre reason, always run into someone who has a connection or a memory of Sudbury.  Whether it’s a night passing through and having a hell of a time at the Coulson back in the 80’s, the fish they caught at their uncle’s camp on Long Lake back in the day or when they say, “do you know Bill?” and we reply with, “ya, small world, Bill is my D-partner at Wednesday night hockey.  Great guy, love Bill!

Sudbury is just well-known.  No offence to our neighbours, but I’m sure people from North Bay don’t come close to getting the same reactions we get when people hear we’re from “The Big Nickel”.  And, for the most part, we rightfully take pride in that.  We are a proud city and that pride is like a rite of passage that has been passed through the generations.

What we’re seeing during this pandemic is something we have likely been taking for granted – Sudbury is a resilient team.  We may seem passive and fun-loving to the “outsiders”, but we’re passionate and strong-willed.  We don’t take kindly to being knocked down and will respond, and that response is even more powerful when you knock a friend down.  Sudbury is the team that loves a good bench brawl when you injure one of our own.

So, our resiliency heading into, and out of, this pandemic will be no different.  Here’s why our team will do better than most…..

Employment

We have become the epicenter for mining.  Although gone are the days of INCO having tens of thousands on payroll, this sector has led to a sprawling secondary network of global suppliers and expertise in the field.  When mining was announced as essential, our unemployment rate was stabilized in the private sector.  This was a massive plus for the entire city as we’ve witnessed in the past what a devastating impact to the local economy during a long strike shutdown can look like.

Further, as Sudbury’s mining giants began downsizing, outsourcing and automating, our city was able to secure some massive public sector employers.  We have large public sector employment with Service Canada, Service Ontario, our colleges and universities, our numerous school boards, front line first responders and our health sector.  Most, if not all, of these employees haven’t missed a paycheque through this pandemic and, with the shotgun blasting of money being thrown out by the government, it’s likely Canada Revenue is going to go on one hell of a hiring spree in our city.

Sure, there are plenty of people that will, and do, complain that these people are overpaid union employees and it’s not fair that they got to work from home while collecting full pay.  And I fully agree that municipal staffing at City of Sudbury and some portions of the public sector are absurdly bloated with plenty of waste.

But they've fought for what they got and right now we should be happy they did. In no way should any of us be suggesting pay cuts, wage freezes or mass layoffs in the public sector like others have been vocal about.  That's the ole' "cut off your nose to spite your face" mentality.  More people earning less, or even nothing, right now will not help anyone.  On the contrary, we need people employed right now with good paying careers spending money in the private sector.

Sudbury.com on Monday posted the provincial job numbers and they were stark.  About 1.1 million people in the province are now unemployed with the unemployment rate standing at 11.3%.  But, digging into the numbers shows the distorted impact with 12.3% of those being public employees and 87.7% of those being private sector or self-employed. 

With our unemployment rate remaining below 7%, we're showing that having a large public sector and essential worker base is a massive community benefit at this moment.  But it's quickly becoming apparent that a large part of the economic recovery will have to be shouldered largely by the public payroll and those essential workers until things get rolling again.  The video below in "The Recovery" section better helps to explain this. 

Retirees

Another big benefit we have is the per capita retirees in the area.

We’ve often heard how we’re becoming a giant retirement community, like an Elliot Lake on steroids.  From a growth perspective, that can be a dangerous long-term trajectory for a city, but, for pandemics, it turns out to be a blessing in disguise.

Retirees are less likely to foreclose on their house when there is no mortgage on it, they spend money at larger rates in the essential services (think pharmacies, physio, other health care, etc.) and also in the soon-to-be opening businesses we all need (hairdressers, estheticians, lawn care/snow removal, etc.).

No, I do not think that all retirees are flush with cash by any stretch - I know there are plenty out there that are barely getting by and these times have been much tougher.  But I’d hazard a guess that there’s retirees sitting on some solid cash reserves throughout our area.    Therefore, I'm focusing this commentary on those Sudbury Resiliency teammates who can help rebound the city they’ve spent decades growing for future generations.

To those retirees, you've taken great pride in building up this city to a place where we're all proud to call home.  We'll still need your help to maintain that pride through this to get the economic cycle moving again and get back to growing our city.  If you can, consider spending a little outside of your normal.  Maybe get that new boat for the dock on Nepahwin, finally replace those 20-year old golf clubs with the newest Titliest irons, maybe it’s time to finally upgrade to that custom kitchen you’ve talked about, go buy that riding lawnmower or, even better, hire a lawn care crew while you sip margaritas on the deck you just had stained by a painting crew.  Even if it's just ordering dinner from a new spot every week helps ripple money through our community.

If you're one of those that have a bigger stomach, and with the markets poised to suffer for the interim, maybe you could consider helping a local business get back into the success column by looking into being an Angel Investor to help one of your neighbours or that entrepenuer you mentored.  These business owners were successful before and we all know they'll be able to do it again with a little boost in these tough times.

Business Longevity

In Sudbury, not every business will need an Angel Investor or federal assistance to survive.  Our city is full of self-made generations of entrepreneurs that have a proven track record through tough times.  If you’re not one of them, you should pick up the phone and call one of these families and ask them to share the secrets of their longevity.

Of course, businesses open and close, they prosper and suffer and not all make it.  We will witness this in the next year on a much larger scale than most of us can recall.  But there will be those that will reopen and grind it out back to success.  I won’t list the names here, as they know who they are and most of us know what family businesses I’m talking about, but they are as iconic to Sudbury as the Big Nickel itself and they will be the backbone of the private sector recovery for all of us.

Our Sprawl

One of our biggest assets is Greater Sudbury itself.  I’m not talking about the amalgamation, as I know there are plenty that don’t see things as “greater” in the outlying areas, but it’s the actual land and outlying areas themselves that helped insulate us from a far worse outcome.

We’ve all seen how quickly COVID-19 spreads and how bad it gets in densely populated areas.  Italy, New York, Toronto – locations where people are stacked on people and buildings are sandwiched together.  The more condensed, the more rapid and devastating the spread.

As mentioned, with our higher than average age population in Sudbury, we could’ve easily been a disaster zone if we weren’t so spread out.  They recommend staying two meters apart – how about two acres apart?  They recommend sneezing or coughing in your elbow – how about sneezing and coughing when the closest person is across the lake?  Physical distancing?  I’ve been in Sudbury real estate long enough to know that people aspire to have plenty of room between them and their neighbour.

Sure, we have our in-fill areas and condensed spots – Gatchell, Little Italy in Copper Cliff, a few condo towers, some high-rise apartments and some of the newer developments that are trying to create a “new normal” when it comes to lot sizes similar to Southern Ontario but, overall, we’re well spread out on a vast tract of land that gave us a natural defence from this thing spreading on us.

The Numbers

We truly are resilient and, so far, the numbers have proven it. 

Like the provincial numbers noted above, we saw the national unemployment rate skyrocket from 5.6% in February to 13% in April and some even think the numbers used don’t reflect the true percentage that is estimated to be way worse.  And it will continue to get worse - WAY worse.

However, Sudbury’s unemployment rate went from 5.2% at the onset of this to 6.8% in the latest reporting.  No amount of loss of employment is good, but you can see that we’re not even close to what happened on a national and provincial scale.

Yes, there will likely be more unemployment damage in Sudbury.  As we mentioned, there will be some businesses shuttered that will put people out of work.  But to be currently sitting at about half of the national average, and well below the provincial average noted above, with that national number to spike again in the next report, we’re proving our resiliency coming from a pretty similar starting point.

We recently asked everyone to fill out our Caswell Team COVID-19 survey and the responses we received emulate these stats with majority of respondents saying that their primary household incomes were still working or retired.

Financial Resiliency

There were two other main stats from our survey that shows Sudbury’s ability to weather this storm.

Approximately 70% of respondents have not requested any financial assistance through this.  Not even so much as a mortgage payment deferral.  Nothing.  That is good news and falls in line with 62% saying their finances would be the same or better at year end while over 93% said they would have no major concerns at the end of the year.  When we’re surrounded by ample stories of despair, this is pretty solid proof that Sudbury is showing some profound buoyancy!

The Recovery

It's not hard to understand that the government can't continue to pay 75% of a large swath of private sector salaries, pay 50% of private commercial rents and hand monthly allowances directly to Canadians - we all know it's not sustainable.  Governments were already in big defecit positions going into this, and with our current national debt clock adding $10,000 a second and each Canadian owing $20,000 (as of this writing), we are creating catistrophic debt levels for future generations unless we get out the paddles and shock our economy back to life.

The private sector doesn't want handouts, they want to work.  But our economy is currently a house of cards with a hurricane on the horizon.  If those who worked through this and/or are financially secure decide to sit on their wallets and support for the private sector disappears, it will wipe out our current strong, resilient position in Sudbury.  Here's a little video that explains this:

We’re a Tough Team

While the country is getting walloped, we’re hanging in as a beacon of light.  While the country is bleeding jobs like a slag pour, we’re still firing the furnaces.  While others are talking about the one that got away, we’re still reeling them in.  While other areas are shell-shocked, we’re still complaining about the weather.

But we’re a team and our entire team isn’t out of this yet.  No good team leaves a teammate behind and, as part of resiliency, it’s important those who can afford to get the local economy rolling, get out there and make it happen.  Consider yourselves the “green spray” that was used on our “moonscape” – a little here, a little there and, with a little bit of time, our whole area is green and lush again and it's as though the fake moon landing never happened.

Some of our teammates have been knocked down, but we know they're tough as hell.  Let’s put our hand out to help them up so, together, we can brawl this crisis and then head out to get “stinko on a Sudbury Saturday night”.

Contributed by:

Steve Caswell

Cell - 705.561.8767

caz@realtyexecutives.com

 

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any other salespersons, staff or affiliates of Realty Executives of Sudbury LTD. Brokerage, Realty Executives International, the Sudbury Real Estate Board, Ontario Real Estate Association, Canadian Real Estate Association or any of their subsidiaries.  For any concerns pertaining to the content herein, please contact us immediately at caswellteam@realtyexecutives.com.

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