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Sault's becoming a popular retirement destination, credit analyst says

Our proportion of residents aged 65 and older is now about 25 per cent compared to 16.7 per cent in Ontario
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Retirement destination?

How do you feel wearing that label, Sault Ste. Marie?

S&P Global Ratings, the world's leading provider of credit ratings, has taken notice of our growing status as a retirement haven.

The remark is contained in a just-released report of the City of Sault Ste. Marie's creditworthiness.

"Sault Ste. Marie's population was 73,400 in 2016, down 2.1 per cent since 2011," says the report, authored by Toronto-based credit analyst Siddharth Maniyar.

"The city's proportion of residents aged 65 and over was about 25 per cent, compared with 16.7 percent in Ontario, reflecting Sault Ste. Marie's growing popularity as a retirement destination," Maniyar said.

The S&P report, released this week, describes the local economic profile as "average."

"High unemployment, a declining population, and a larger proportionate number of elderly residents could constrain the city's economy and could affect revenue growth and expenditure needs."

The Sault's gross domestic product (GDP) per capita an important measure of monetary value of the goods and services produced in a specific year – is well below the provincial average of US$44,200.

"Although Sault Ste. Marie continues to gradually diversify away from its traditional resource-based economy, we believe that medium-term economic and related GDP growth will remain muted relative to that of some peers," S&P said.

S&P kept the City of Sault Ste. Marie's credit rating at AA-stable, citing our "very low" debt burden, "healthy" liquidity, "robust" budgetary flexibility and budgetary performance.

"Although we view an upgrade as unlikely over the next two years, we could raise the rating if, all else equal, Sault Ste. Marie's economy expands and diversifies significantly," Maniyar wrote.

S&P downplayed the effects of Essar Steel Algoma Inc.'s unpaid property tax bill.

"While some of the city's cash and investment is used to fund Essar Steel's $25 million of unpaid taxes, we expect cash and investments will rise on repayment."

The S&P report is on the agenda for next week's meeting of City Council.

The meeting will be livestreamed on SooToday starting at 4:30 p.m.