Sarnia ranks eighth among micro-cities in annual American Cities of the Future report

Sarnia has earned a nod for business friendliness, appearing on the latest American Cities of the Future report.

The report, by FDi, a division of Financial Times Limited, puts the city of 70,000 eighth for business friendliness in the micro-city category.

“Anytime you get on a list and it gets wide circulation is good promotion whether you come first or come 10th, said George Mallay, head of the Sarnia-Lambton Economic Partnership (SLEP).

The agency promotes business investment in Sarnia and Lambton County.

“It puts you under consideration,” he said about the ranking.

Sarnia’s strong points include a college and university research park that are business friendly and research-focused, along with a good development approval process within the city, and a good corporate tax rate in the province, said Mallay.

“We have a lot going on locally now in terms of entrepreneurship and really putting in place infrastructure to improve the competitiveness through the local economy and local businesses,” he said.

“When I look around southern Ontario, I don’t see that a lot of other cities are doing much more than we’re doing in terms of building the infrastructure for moving ahead.”

Recent success stories in Sarnia include BioAmber building its $141-million plant in 2015, and the purchase of the former Entropex plastics recycling plant for reboot last year.

BioAmber is still considering Sarnia for another $500-millin plant, and Nova has been eying a possible $2-billion new petrochemical plant in St. Clair Township.

Going forward, Mallay said, the emphasis to attract business here has to be on automation and information technology companies.

“We are working with the college and the park and others in terms of building more capabilities that way and marketing ourselves,” he said, noting the ranking is also a good reflection on Sarnia recently being named one of Intelligent Community Forum’s top 21smart communities – out of more than 400 – for the second year running.

Continuing to improve broadband internet access across Lambton County will help make the area more enticing for information technology and automation jobs, he said.

“I think (the FDi nod is) a really good ranking of what I call a collaborative community working together,” said Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley.

“Because it’s never one organization that leads the way, it’s a combination of people.”

It’s more a Sarnia-Lambton recognition, he said.

“Because you can’t really separate the city from the rest of the area and we’re all in this together.”

Elsewhere in the region, Chatham-Kent ranked seventh on the FDi micro-city list for business friendliness, and London was sixth for mid-sized cities. Windsor topped the small cities list.

The report analyzed 421 locations across North and South America.

Sarnia previously appeared on the list in 2015 and 2009, Bradley said, and one of SLEP’s goals is to move up on it and similar lists in the future, Mallay said.

“We used to score fairly well on a lot of those lists, and one of the objectives we have is to move up on those lists the best we can.”

[email protected]