In 1991, Census data showed that the distribution of employment was evenly split between North and South Simcoe. By 2001, the total number of jobs had almost doubled to just under 200,000 -- 57% of which are located in the five southern towns and the City of Barrie.
There is a perception that Barrie is a dormitory community for the GTA. This is not the case: a 2001 survey shows that 10% of Barrie residents commute to Toronto and 10% commute to York and Peel Regions. Fully 63% of Barrie residents work in Barrie and another 9% work elsewhere in Simcoe County. Within Barrie, 73% of all jobs are held by city residents, with most of the rest coming from elsewhere in Simcoe county.10
Simcoe County's economy is commonly understood to be based on tourism, agriculture, and natural resource extraction. However, recent growth in employment occurred in five other sectors: manufacturing, retail, health care, construction, and accommodation and food services related to tourism. Although tourism is the fifth most significant economic sector (and even more important in lakeshore areas such as Collingwood and Wasaga Beach), Simcoe County's major employment-generating activities are in the manufacturing and retail sectors. Manufacturing has consistently accounted for at least 17% of total jobs, retail for 12% and tourism for 6%.11
Growth in the manufacturing sector, particularly in South Simcoe, was strong between 1991 and 2001.12 This growth is driven primarily by the large plants that began operating during the period. Operating since 1987, the Honda plant in Alliston is a significant employer in the region, employing 4,200 people and turning out 390,000 vehicles per year.13 In 1998, Honda opened a second assembly plant in Alliston employing approximately 4,000 people. In 2002, Honda injected $32 million into its Alliston plant in order to boost production capacity.14 Magna is building a new plant in Bradford and the planner there sees strong growth in the auto-parts industrial sector.
A number of smaller automobile-related operations also opened in Bradford West Gwillimbury in the late 1990s. Major economic generators also include Casino Rama and the Lake Simcoe Regional Airport.
Lake Simcoe, Georgian Bay, and Lake Couchiching are anchors for year-round tourist activity for the GTA. A wide range of tourist-related development is centred on Collingwood, Wasaga Beach, and the Lake Simcoe and Lake Couchiching shores. The Simcoe Area Transportation Needs Assessment suggests that the popularity of tourism among the GTA's aging population and greater disposable income to spend on vacationing will result in travel increases of approximately 60% over the next 30 years, to Simcoe County and Muskoka.15