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Ranking names best “growth cities” for Canada

Grocers on the hunt for hot spots can look to U-Haul’s migration trends

Grocers in expansion mode might want to head to smaller cities for big growth.

Moving-truck rental company U-Haul has analyzed the migration trends of Canada’s do-it-yourself-movers, and named the top 25 Canadian “growth cities” based on its data. North Bay, a small city in Northeastern Ontario (population 53,000), was ranked the No. 1 growth city in the country.

U-Haul calculates growth cities by the net gain of one-way U-Haul trucks arriving in a city versus leaving that city in a calendar year. People coming to North Bay in one-way U-Haul trucks increased 20% in 2020, while departures rose only 3% year-over-year.

In 2019, North Bay, which is about 300 km away from Ottawa, occupied the fifth spot on the top 25 list. North Vancouver, the No. 1 city in 2019, dropped to second place in 2020.

In a press release, Wayne Curtis, president of U-Haul Company of Central Ontario, said people are setting their sights on North Bay because the cost of living is low and the Ottawa government is sending jobs in that direction.

Other significant spikes in arrivals were seen in Nanaimo/Coombs, B.C. (52%); Chilliwack, B.C. (32%); Abbotsford, B.C. (26%); Barrie/Orillia, Ont. (22%); Belleville, Ont. (20%); and Lethbridge, Alta. (17%). One big Canadian city saw a notable spike: Vancouver, which landed in seventh place with a 16% net gain. As in 2019, Toronto and Montreal did not crack the top 25 in 2020.

Ontario boasts 10 of the top 15 cities, including Sudbury (No. 6), Chatham (No. 9), and Sarnia (No. 10). Quebec has six cities in the top 25, while B.C. has five.

B.C. and New Brunswick share honours for top growth province, followed by Alberta, Quebec, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador, P.E.I., Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario. New Brunswick jumped from 10th place in 2019 to first in 2020, while Ontario dropped from first to 10th.

While U-Haul migration trends do not correlate directly to population or economic growth, the company said its growth data is an effective gauge of how well cities are attracting and maintaining residents.

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