How do you support the fastest growing municipality in a largely rural region as it works through its growing pains? What happens in a rapidly growing community that’s been recognized as one of the best places to live as it tries to keep up with labour demands, changing demographics, and challenges to the enabling infrastructure that support a strong labour market and economic development?

Saugeen Shores is the fastest growing community in Bruce County, experiencing an 8.3% increase in population since 2011 (Statistics Canada, 2016), and receiving recognition as one of Canada’s Top 25 Best Places to Live by MoneySense, ranking 14th in the national list in 2018 and 6th in the Ontario list of Best Places to Live (MoneySense, 2018). Notably, in this same ranking process, Saugeen Shores ranked within the overall Top 10 in the category of Wealth and Economy. As such, the current economic reality in Saugeen Shores directly challenges broader narratives about rural decline – and the community ranks ahead of major cities like Toronto, Newmarket, and Whitby in terms of quality of life. As a growing rural community, Saugeen Shores represents an interesting and dynamic case study for examining the implications of rapid change. However, persistent data gaps make addressing these issues at the local level challenging, if not impossible – and the focus of existing labour force research on quantitative analysis leaves employers like Bruce Power and communities like Saugeen Shores without adequate information or recommendations about how they might address the opportunities and challenges they face in real time to create strong, place-based economies that meet the needs of both employers and workers.

In partnership with Bruce Power, Mitacs and the Town of Saugeen Shores, this research focuses on understanding the implications of the unique labour market dynamics of a rural region in transition through a case-study of Saugeen Shores, Ontario. With better understanding, businesses and community leadership can better address the challenges and opportunities emerging from changing demographics and leading to enhanced economic development. The outcomes of this research will benefit local and regional stakeholders, including Bruce Power, to build enhanced economic strategic plans that target key issues in the local labour market – an area of evidence-based research that remains an area of significant focus for business, government, and rural development researchers and practitioners across Canada and around the world.

Research Team

  • Dr. Ryan Gibson, University of Guelph
  • S. Ashleigh Weeden, University of Guelph

Advisory Committee

  • Bruce Power
  • Jessica Linthorne, Town of Saugeen Shores
  • Heather Hyde, Town of Saugeen Shores
  • Gemma Mendez-Smith, Four County Market Labour Board

Funded through a Mitacs Accelerate Internship partnership between Bruce Power and the University of Guelph.