SUDBURY -- ‘Sluggish’ will be the new key word when it comes to referring to anything economic in this country for the next little while, but it’s not all bad news when it comes to northern Ontario, in particular Sudbury.

That appeared to be the theme from Dr. Trevin Stratton’s presentation to the Greater Sudbury Chamber of Commerce Wednesday over the lunch hour.

"There are a lot of challenges that we’re facing in Ontario, Sudbury, and all over Canada, that have to do more with our economic fundamentals. Whether it’s our tax competitiveness, our regulatory system, which has proven to be challenging – it doesn’t rank very highly internationally. Yeah, but there are a lot of positive stories, job growth has been strong going forward and there are a lot of opportunities in Sudbury as well. You know, I think the way that the economy is changing, the way that the mining sector is changing, can be a huge opportunity for the region," said Stratton, chief economist and vice president of policy for the Canadian Chamber of Commerce.

Stratton says Sudbury could be an internationally renowned global hub for mining in the years ahead.

His comments come off a challenging time for nickel, which saw its steepest decline in eight years, last month.

An Indonesian export ban had caused a temporary rally that is now subsiding and there has been a decline in stainless steel operating rates in China, due to trade tensions with the Asian nation.

"It’s promising that it’ll at least plateau. There’s an opportunity that it could go up in 2020," said Stratton.

"Sudbury is definitely one of the stars of northern Ontario when it comes to the economy. It’s doing better than some other regions, some other cities and towns, but one of the challenges going forward, I would certainly say when it comes to skills and labour, getting people here to form a larger economic base that can increase your growth potential, it’s going to be one of the big issues," Stratton added. "It’s happening in Sudbury, but it’s important to make sure it’s happening all over northern Ontario as well. And you know, I think infrastructure is going to be an issue as well, the ability to get our goods to global markets."

Stratton praised some of the efforts the city and Atlantic Canada have undertaken so far to increase migration and boost local and regional economies.

His comments appeared to resonate with some of the city’s top business leaders, who listened to the lunch-time presentation.

"It was absolutely exciting to hear a little about what 2019 gave us and what 2020 is projected to be. So, it’s exciting to see that we’re definitely going to be growing and it’s nice to see that Sudbury is in a good place," said Bryan Welsh, chair of the Greater Sudbury Chamber of Commerce. "I find it very encouraging. We know that we’re going to be growing and places you know where mining companies can invest. I personally work for a mining contractor and right now the contracts look good, and we’re hiring at a great pace. It’s a matter of finding the labour. And it’s exciting that 2020 is going to bring us prosperity here in Sudbury."

Welsh, a senior human resource partner with DMC Mining, says post-secondary institutions are doing an extraordinary job at attracting people from other countries and it’s made it easy for local employers.

"Right now, it seems to be, where we’re hearing from a lot from our businesses, is finding that talent, from that shortage of skilled trades to that shortage of skilled workers everywhere," Welsh added.

"It’s incredibly important to talk about skills and skills training here in Canada. I’m starting to see help wanted ads across this country, not just here in Sudbury, but we need people to pick up jobs and we need skilled people to take those jobs from welding to retail," said Hugh Kruzel, community liaison for NORCAT. "The mining sector alone is going to take us forward. Electrical vehicles is going to make a big difference and battery storage, we’re going to go through a transformation here in northern Ontario."

Liam McGill and his team have been the point people at the City of Greater Sudbury for attracting that talent. They’re also working with employers to fill some of those gaps.

"I found Dr. Stratton’s presentation very encouraging, not terribly surprising, anybody who's watching the global economy would have seen a lot of the same things that Dr. Stratton was describing," said McGill, Sudbury's manager of investment and business development. "But I think one of the other things that I would echo from Dr. Stratton’s presentation, I think we feel the same way, is despite some of the uncertainty in the global economy, Sudbury’s economy looks strong. I think the future in 2020 looks pretty bright."

McGill says one of the economic stories that he got from Sudbury is that we’re in for more slow growth. Vale’s Copper Cliff expansion project and Glencore’s Onaping deep expansion project are both underway and are expected to create hundreds of new jobs for the region.

"Investment attraction and economic growth are our key functions in the economic development division. We’ve been seeing a lot of success with local, existing small to medium enterprises, largely in the mining supply and services sector, but also elsewhere, who have been steadily growing over the last several years largely due to export sales," said McGill. "So, they’re selling their goods and services abroad, which is leading to increased sales and job growth."

McGill echoed sentiments about how one of the largest challenges the region is facing is talent, they’re now looking forward to the launch of the new immigration pilot program in January 2020.

"It’s aimed at helping us work with employers to attract talent from abroad to fill the vacancies that they have," said McGill. "If businesses can’t find the people they need, they can’t grow. That’s our priority number one, I think."