Business is booming at Innovative Automation in the City of Barrie, ON. The custom machine and robotics builder has more than doubled its revenue to over $40 million in the last three years and is moving into a new 62,500 square foot facility this month. “The City of Barrie really puts out an effort to support growth,” says president and co-owner Steve Loftus. “I’ve had great success putting up a new building because they’ve been more than helpful.”

Companies like Innovative Automation have helped make Barrie one of the fastest growing business communities in Canada. Named one of the most entrepreneurial cities in Canada by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, it boasts one of the lowest overall business cost structures for cities in the Northeastern United States and Central Canada, and has seen triple-digit growth in GDP over the past 10 years.

Barrie is an exciting place to be right now, due in no small part to a thriving manufacturing hub created by companies like Innovative Automation, which sells 90 percent of its products to the automotive sector. Half of its sales occur in Canada, with the other half split between Mexico and the U.S. With its new facilities, however, Innovative Automation is expanding into global markets, and recently sold its first custom-built machinery in China.

The company has doubled its workforce in the last three years, echoing the astounding 560 percent growth in Barrie’s population over the last 40 years. “It’s a very young, motivated, and well-educated population,” says Loftus. In fact, the median age is 37, with 61 percent of the workforce holding a post-secondary education. “These people want to succeed and are driven, and I’ve got a place for them.”

Many new employees begin as co-op students from the automotive management program at Georgian College. Others are graduates of the program or recent university grads. For students who earned their post-secondary credentials outside of Barrie, many come to Barrie to find a city that is thriving with career opportunities at companies like Innovative Automation. Loftus says graduating students keep coming back to Barrie because “we offer a lifestyle that’s unique from other areas in Ontario.” That includes a vibrant sports, recreational, and cultural community for people of all ages, and a spectacular Lake Simcoe waterfront shoreline of which the city is justifiably proud. Residents of other Ontario cities may spend hours commuting between work and home, but “those hours I get to spend with my family,” says Loftus.

At the same time, Barrie has the transportation and technology infrastructure to support its thriving economy, due to its close proximity to major highways, the Lake Simcoe Regional Airport and Pearson International Airport, and the GO commuter rail system. “You’re in Barrie 45 minutes after you leave Pearson,” says Loftus. “It’s very convenient, especially for foreign visitors, and a huge advantage for companies like us.”

The city’s two national fibre optic lines, which connect to Canada’s primary data interconnection hub in Toronto, are drawing technology firms to Barrie. The city is also making key investments in infrastructure to support upcoming growth, including 5700 acres of land that are expected to see development starting in later 2018/early 2019.

The time is now to bring business to Barrie. With the city’s population of 142,000 projected to grow by 70,000 over the next 15 years, Barrie still combines a thriving economy with a family-focused, connected community feel. Loftus, who was born and raised locally, still meets people on the street with whom he grew up. It’s that kind of lifestyle that will keep Barrie booming.