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Oshawa Tour of Growth and Development
Welcome to the Oshawa Tour of Growth and Development. This virtual tour provides users with an inside look at Oshawa’s on-going economic renaissance. Whether you have hours to explore or just a few minutes, this interactive tour will open your eyes to Oshawa’s dynamic economic story. Find the latest updates on developments in the pipeline like the Trent University Durham Expansion, the Kedron Planning Area, and the Northwood Business Park. Discover brand new projects you may not have known existed. Learn more
Oshawa Small Business Resources
Starting a new business takes motivation, dedication and talent as well as research and planning. The City of Oshawa recognizes that small businesses are significant drivers of the local economy and there are a number of local services and programs that are focused on working with new businesses to help them succeed.
History if Oshawa
Historians believe that the area that would become Oshawa began as a transfer point for the fur trade. Beaver and other animals trapped for their pelts by local natives were traded with the Coureurs des bois (voyagers). Furs were loaded onto canoes by the Mississauga Natives at the Oshawa harbour and transported to the trading posts located to the west at the mouth of the Credit River. Around 1760, the French constructed a trading post near the harbour location this was abandoned after a few years, but its ruins provided shelter for the first residents of what later became Oshawa. Most notably, one of the fur traders was Moody Farewell, an early resident of the community who was to some extent responsible for its name change.
In the late 18th century a local resident, Roger Conant, started an export business shipping salmon to the United States. His success attracted further migration into the region. A large number of the founding immigrants were United Empire Loyalists, who left the United States to live under British rule. Later, Irish and then French Canadian immigration increased as did industrialization. Oshawa and the surrounding Ontario County were also the settling grounds of a disproportionate number of 19th century Cornish immigrants during the Cornish emigration which emptied large tracts of that part of England. As well, the surveys ordered by Governor John Graves Simcoe, and the subsequent land grants, helped populate the area. When Col. Asa Danforth laid out his York-to-Kingston road, it passed through what would later become Oshawa.
In 1822, a “colonization road” (a north–south road to facilitate settlement) known as Simcoe Street was constructed. It more or less followed the path of an old native trail known as the Nonquon Road, and ran from the harbour to the area of Lake Scugog. This intersected the “Kingston Road” at what would become Oshawa’s “Four Corners.” In 1836, Edward Skae relocated his general store approximately 800 m east to the southeast corner of this intersection; as his store became a popular meeting place (probably because it also served as the Post Office), the corner and the growing settlement that surrounded it, were known as Skae’s Corners.
In 1842, Skae, the postmaster, applied for official post office status, but was informed the community needed a better name. Moody Farewell was requested to ask his native acquaintances what they called the area; their reply was “Oshawa,” which translates to “where we must leave our canoes”. Thus, the name of Oshawa, one of the primary “motor cities” of Canada, has the meaning “where we have to get out and walk” The name “Oshawa” was adopted and the post office named accordingly. In 1849, the requirements for incorporation were eased, and Oshawa was incorporated as a village in 1850.
Oshawa Factories, 1910
The 1846 Gazeteer indicates a population of about 1,000 in a community surrounded by farms. There were three churches, a post office, tradesmen of various types and some industry a foundry, a grist mill and a fulling mill, a brewery two distilleries, a machine shop and four cabinet makers
The newly established village became an industrial centre, and implement works, tanneries, asheries and wagon factories opened (and often closed shortly after, as economic “panics” occurred regularly). In 1878, Robert Samuel McLaughlin, Sr. moved his carriage works to Oshawa from Enniskillen to take advantage of its harbour and of the availability of a rail link not too far away. He constructed a two-story building on Simcoe Street, just north of the King’s Highway. This building was heavily remodelled in 1929, receiving a new facade and being extended to the north using land where the city’s gaol (jail, firehall And townhall) had once stood.
The village became a town in 1879, in what was then called East Whitby Township. Around 1890, the carriage works relocated from its Simcoe Street address to an unused furniture factory a couple of blocks to the northeast, and this remained its site until the building burned down in 1899. Offered assistance by the town, McLaughlin chose to stay in Oshawa, building a new factory across Mary Street from the old site. Rail service had been provided in 1890 by the Oshawa Railway this was originally set up as a streetcar line, but c. 1910 a second “freight line” was built slightly to the east of Simcoe Street.
This electric line provided streetcar and freight service, connected central Oshawa with the Grand Trunk (now Canadian National) Railway, and with the Canadian Northern (which ran through the very north of Oshawa) and the Canadian Pacific, built in 1912–13. The Oshawa Railway was acquired by the Grand Trunk operation around 1910, and streetcar service was replaced by buses in 1940. After GM moved its main plants to south Oshawa in 1951, freight traffic fell and most of the tracks were removed in 1963, although a line to the older remaining “north” plant via Ritson Road remained until 2000.
Oshawa is headquarters to General Motors Canada, which has large-scale manufacturing to nothing. Since Windsor, Ontario houses Chrysler Canada headquarters, the two cities in the past had something of a friendly rivalry for the title of “Automotive Capital of Canada”, which is now held by Oshawa. While the company’s once essential role in the local economy has diminished, it remains the largest local employer. In November 2018, General Motors announced the closing of the plant, with the layoff of both salaried and hourly workers.
The revenue collection divisions of the Ontario Ministry of Finance occupy one of the main office buildings in the city’s downtown. Oshawa City Hall, Tribute Communities Centre, The Robert McLaughlin Gallery are also in the downtown core. The University of Ontario Institute of Technology occupies five buildings in downtown. More than 1,900 UOIT. students and staff attend class and work in downtown Oshawa.
The city’s older southern neighbourhoods tend to be considerably less affluent than its more suburban northern sections, which are rapidly expanding as Toronto commuters move in. The southern half of the city consists of industrial zones and compact housing designed for early 20th century industrial workers, while the northern half has a suburban feel more typical of later decades. High wages paid to unionized GM employees have meant that these workers could enjoy a relatively high standard of living, although such jobs are much scarcer today than they once were. During its heyday after World War II, General Motors offered some of the best manufacturing jobs available in Canada and attracted thousands of workers from economically depressed areas of the country, particularly the Maritimes, Newfoundland, rural Quebec and northern Ontario. The city was also a magnet for European immigrants in the skilled trades, and boasts substantial Polish, Ukrainian, HungarianCroatian, German, Slovak and Russian ethnic communities.
Oshawa has become one of the fastest growing cities in Canada, although statements to this effect are often in reference to the Census Metropolitan Area, which includes neighbouring Whitby and Clarington. Oshawa achieved a record-setting year of growth in 2015 with over a half a billion dollars in construction value (breaking its previous record in 2014). Many commuters have been enticed to Oshawa by comparatively low housing prices and the regular rail service into downtown Toronto provided by GO Transit and Via Rail.
The growth of subdivisions to house Toronto commuters will likely accelerate with the Highway 407 East extension. Highway 407 East (407E) opened to Harmony Road in Oshawa on 20 June 2016, including a tolled north–south link to Highway 401 known as Highway 412. A further extension will push the highway east to Highway 35/Highway 115 in Clarington by 2020, with a second link to Highway 401 known as Highway 418.
In spring 2016, Oshawa was ranked No. 1 city for jobs in Canada when compared to 33 cities across the country. The trend suggests major social and demographic changes for Oshawa, which has long had a vigorous labour union presence, a mostly white demographic, and a largely blue collar identity.
The city has been attracting film and television producers who have made parts of a number of movies and TV series in Oshawa, most recently It (2017 film) (based on the Stephen King book), but also X-Men, Chicago, Queer as Folk, Billy Madison and Hannibal. The most popular location in the city for film makers is Parkwood Estate.