Durham Region

Doing Business in Durham Region

Durham Region is a major economic centre that attracts businesses in different sectors, including innovation technologies, manufacturing, automotive.

Businesses in Durham Region

Big businesses that have operations here include Argus Industries, Pacific Engineering, Siemens, General Motors Canada. A total of 12,069 businesses were in operation in 2016, up from 9,999 in 2013. The retail sector is the main employer, followed by social assistance and healthcare, the food services and accommodation, and education. When it comes to business structure and legal status, businesses choose from different forms, including sole proprietor, partnership, corporation, and non-profit organization or co-op.

Why Businesses Choose Durham

The region offers plenty of opportunities for growth and development due to its skilled workforce, good infrastructure, diversified economy, and convenient location. The transportation network is well-developed and consists of international and domestic airports, railway, shipping ports, and roads and highways. Railway services are offered by VIA Rail, Go Transit, the Canadian Pacific Railway, and Canadian National Rail. Some of the largest ports are also located in the region or within a short driving distance, including the Port of Toronto and Port of Ottawa Harbor. The major airport in the region is the Oshawa Airport, and two other airline hubs are found within a short distance, the Billy Bishop Island Airport and Lester B. Pearson International Airport, both of which are located in Toronto. Many businesses move to Durham because of its educated labor force. A number of universities in Durham Region offer graduate and undergraduate programs, among which the Centennial College and University of Ontario Institute of Technology.

The municipalities also have a role to play and are tasked with identifying opportunities, attracting businesses and investment, and coordinating with industry players for further economic growth. The municipalities also cooperate with local and regional organizations and industry stakeholders to identify new business opportunities. In the tourism sector, for example, the municipalities cooperate with key players to promote Durham as an attractive destination for recreation, arts, and sightseeing.

Where to Start

Permits and licenses are required to open and run a business, and there are different types of permits depending on the scope of business activity. Companies that plan to begin operations apply with the respective municipality. Depending on the sector and activities, start-ups apply for telecom tower installation, birder, and other permits. Companies that need a private septic system permit, for example apply with the Durham Region Health Department.

Sectors to Invest in

The major economic sectors include tourism, smart energy, digital technologies, food processing and agriculture, and manufacturing. Other sectors to invest in include warehousing and transportation, technical and professional services, and insurance and finance. Other sectors also offer good business opportunities, including fishing and forestry, rental and real estate, construction, and recreation and entertainment. Skill professionals in different sectors are in high demand meaning that these sectors also produce goods and services that are in demand. Such sectors are, for example, the health services, food services, automotive services, and construction. Many companies are looking for engineers, drivers, electricians, plumbers, construction workers, millwrights, and carpenters. Fast growing sectors in places like Oshawa include construction and the health sciences. The construction sector is predicted to experience stable growth, especially when it comes to non-residential projects. While the manufacturing sector has seen a stable downtrend, other sectors have expanded, construction being one example (8.6 percent in 2017). Major sectors in Oshawa also include the retail sector, credit sector and food and beverage services. Sectors that experienced growth are insurance, real estate, finance, and further growth is expected in 2019. The wholesale sector grew by more than 13 percent in 2017 and also offers good opportunities for investment. According to a report by the Conference Board of Canada, the economy of Oshawa is predicted to grow at a faster pace than the rest of Canada, which makes it a good place to start a business and invest.

Regional Municipality of Durham

The municipality of Durham is found in Grey County, Ontario and has a population of about 645,860. The region consists of a number of municipalities, townships, and towns, including Scugog, Pickering, Clarington, Brock, and Ajax. The municipalities are tasked with tax collection, fire inspection, maintenance of sidewalks and streets, and other responsibilities.


It was in 1974 when the region was formally established to include commercial, residential, and rural areas. The area was originally inhabited by Ojibway, Iroquois, and other First Nations groups. In the 18th century, immigrants settled in the area and opened businesses producing sleighs, carriages, construction materials, farm tools, and other goods. Immigrants from Russia, Italy, Germany, Croatia, Ukraine, and other countries settled in the area in the 19th century.


Key sectors of the economy include automotive, energy, environment, and engineering, manufacturing, and agri-business. Other sectors are tourism, innovative technologies, and the health sciences.

Automotive Industry

The Region of Durham is a major hub for the automotive industry, and giants like Volkswagen and General Motors are headquartered here. However, General Motors is about to close operations by the end of 2019 while BMW already moved its production facilities to Richmond Hill.

Nuclear Energy

The generating stations of Ontario Power Generation are found here, which makes the nuclear plant a major employer in the Region of Durham. There are three stations in operation, Darlington, Pickering B, and Pickering A.


Businesses in the region specialize in stamping and forging, concrete and cement products, glass and rubber products, and adhesives, coatings, and paints. There are also businesses that produce motor vehicle parts, pharmaceutical products, and aerospace parts. The University of Ontario Institute of Technology offers different programs with a focus on manufacturing such as Software Engineering, Manufacturing Engineering, and Applied and Industrial Mathematics.


The agricultural sector is also well developed, and the main produce includes fruits and vegetables, grain, and oilseed. Farmers also raise livestock such as goat, sheep, dairy cattle, and beef cattle.


Companies with a focus on innovative technologies are also growing in number and specialize in areas such as manufacturing automation, energy management, marketing, health informatics.


The tourism sector is also well-developed as there are plenty of attractions and points of interest in the region. Among them are the Dagmar Ski Resort, Lakeridge Ski Resort, Waterfront Trail, York Durham Heritage Railway, Jungle Cat World, Bowmanville Zoo. Big shopping centers also attract tourists and are found all over the region, in municipalities and townships such as Ajax, Whitby, Pickering, and Oshawa. Big shopping centres are The Bowmanville Mall, Thickson Centre, Pickering Town Centre, and Oshawa Power Centre.

The Region of Durham also hosts a number of events throughout the year such as apple picking, live music events, maple syrup festivals. A number of festivals are organized each year, including the Stellar Literary Festival, Imagine Film Festival, and Durham Children’s Groundwater Festival. The Fiesta Week takes place in different locations around Oshawa and features events such as the Father’s Day Grand Parade and the Queen’s Court Ball. The Stellar Literary Festival is organized in Oshawa, and visitors enjoy poetry, literary readings, and music. Other festivals for visitors to join are the Purple Woods Maple Syrup Festival and Pickering Ribfest.