Oshawa is getting bigger. Not just with its population, but with new businesses brought here through the work of its economic development director.
Hailey Wright, 33, has lived in Durham her whole life, graduating from Trent University in Durham in Oshawa, with a history degree.
“I wanted to be a teacher. And when I started to do my volunteer work and my fourth year of university to get ready for teacher’s college, I decided I hated being in a classroom. And, uh, you know, that was sort of a terrifying moment at the end of a four year degree,” says Wright.
After graduating from Trent, she took a job as a manager, community relations for the university, and eventually the City of Oshawa took notice.
“I think it’s exciting. I think there’s so many wonderful opportunities coming, not only to Oshawa, but the region. I think for me, the thing that I’m most excited about is I have a deep understanding of the value of the post-secondaries in Oshawa.”
Wright’s current projects include the revitalization of the downtown core and upcoming Northridge business park in northwest Oshawa. She hopes some of the new development will be used for academic purposes.
“I have a dream of seeing a research park in there. Lots of different opportunities for growth. So, you know, that’s number one. When I had comments on how long it takes, you know, in order to get that land ready, you go through, there’s an official plan for the city, which guides all the zoning.”
As the city grows, Wright says it’s critical for both the downtown core and Northridge to be developed properly.
“So how can we enhance investment? How can we bring more business and how can we get more people coming to the shops that are located down there? So those are kind of my two major portfolios at this point in time. The downtown one seems a little bit more fun, I would say, because there’s so much more to work with. The other one [Northridge], it’s land right now.”
Wright is excited about reshaping Oshawa. She says having Ontario Tech University, Durham College and Trent University in the city helps attract investment.
“I would say nine times out of 10 when we’re, you know, pitching the city or talking to somebody, the value of the post-secondaries come up and that’s for a few years. All businesses that are looking to grow are looking for talent.”
Her talent is her ability of maintain relations with external partners.
“It’s not necessarily, you know, conversation happens one day and you see a Costco open the next day with 500 new jobs, because that obviously takes a lot of time to bring in that company to get that commitment for them to build,” says Wright.
Wright started her job with the City in June 2021 after leaving her job at Trent.
“There’s a lot of time and attention and thought that goes into those strategic discussions and acquisitions,” says Wright. “I was part of the team (at Trent) that led to manage the project that saw the expansion of the campus. So we introduced a new build on the campus of both academic space and residence units.
“I was part of the team that worked on getting grants and support from a fundraising perspective for the building both from the city of Oshawa and the region,” continues Wright.