Expect strong growth, [in Northern Ontario] say bank officials – by Harold Carmichael (Sudbury Star – May 6, 2011)

The Sudbury Star, the City of Greater Sudbury’s daily newspaper. This article was published on May 6, 2011.   hcarmichael@thesudburystar.com

The immediate future looks good for the Northern Ontario and Greater Sudbury economies, the chief economist of BMO Bank of Montreal said Thursday.

“I’m going to say roughly 3% growth, continued strong growth,” said Sherry Cooper. “I wouldn’t make too much of the recent decline in commodity prices, especially for the base metals. It’s the precious metals, actually, that have taken most of the hit.

“So, from a perspective of copper, nickel and other base metals, we will not see substantial change. If anything, the prices are likely to jump up further.” Cooper said global demand for metals is strong and appears poised to stay that way.

“Much of that global demand is coming from the emerging markets. The emerging market growth is a longer-term fundamental. It’s certainly here to stay for the next decade, at least.”

Cooper said that Sudbury, with its rich resource base, diversified economy and affordable home prices, stands to benefit from such strong world demand for its nickel, copper and other metals.

“I showed a chart today that average home prices across Canada and Sudbury is very affordable in comparison to many other places, there is a very high standard of living (and it’s) very family-friendly.

“As well, Sudbury benefits from the infrastructure spending, the development of Sudbury as a regional cancer centre, the growth that is going into the hospital sector, as well as higher education.”

Cooper, along with Frank Techar, BMO Bank of Montreal’s chief executive officer and president, visited the city Thursday as part of an eight-city tour that started in early April and will wrap up in mid-June. They are meeting with business personal banking customers and local bank staff.

“We’re going across the country to spend time with our customers to help them understand what’s going on around them and help them make sense of the environment they are operating in, make sense of the changing financial situation,” said Techar.

While mining is in good shape, the forestry sector in Northern Ontario has struggled in recent years, battered by poor demand, low prices and high costs. Cooper said better times are ahead.

“Forestry is improving more because lumber prices have bottomed and are moving up,” she said. “The U.S. housing markets are still in the doldrums, but the good news is they are bottoming and we are not seeing the cline. And, the housing sector in Canada has been quite strong and likely to remain strong.”

Cooper and Techar also said Canada’s banking system is in good shape, and that’s good for the country.

“If you look at what has happened globally to the banking systems and the effect on the governments and the result that the governments have had to support the banks through the global recession, that didn’t happen in Canada,” Techar said.

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