Noble, Edward J. - Ph.D
Men and Circumstances: Entrepreneurs and Community Growth, A Case Study, Orillia, Ontario, 1867-1898 - Dr. Gilbert Stelter, advisor
This thesis is an analysis of the relationship between entrepreneurial decisionmaking and the external forces with which they had to cope in their pursuit of economic development. This study indicates that in their ability to control municipal government and financial expenditures, businessmen were able to implement projects conducive to business success and thereby increase their personal wealth. At the same time, entrepreneurial decisions influenced community growth.
During the years 1830 to 1867, businessmen established their business careers by tapping the markets provided by the lumber camps and small hamlets scattered throughout the northern hinterland of eastern Georgian Bay, Muskoka, and Parry Sound. These "fontier-merchants," who were engaged in retail-wholesale-manufacturing enterprises were subsequently able to expand their concerns after 1867, and under their direction, Orillia became the supply center for the northern region.
Entrepreneurs garnered sufficient wealth to invest in a variety of business ventures, including real estate speculation. With the loss of hinterland trade due to the decline of the timber trade in the 1890s, however, the more important entrepreneurs emphasized the development of manufacturing as a solution to the town's stagnant economy. Similarly, the "frontier-merchants", faced with the decline of the wholesale trade, pursued specialization of goods and service in order to meet the changing business circumstances.
Businessmen were able to dominate municipal institutions throughout the entire period and could use municipal financial resources to bonus railway extensions and to provide cheap public utilities. Railways facilitated the service center function and enabled merchants and manufacturers to supply a wider market than the local community could offer. Businessmen were instrumental in the corporation adopting the principle of municipal ownership of the waterworks and hydro electric power. Both of these schemes played an important role in Orillia making the transition from a commercial center to a small manufacturing town.
In the final analysis, however, by the turn of the century external forces were at work which were to place the advantage of large scale expansion with the more important urban centers. The metropolitan pull of Toronto placed a ceiling on growth beyond the ability of the local decision-makers to transcend. Orillia's leaders could only aspire to their town becoming a small manufacturing secondary city.