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Sense of Census

February 9, 2022, marked an important date for data collectors nationwide. That day represented the first checkpoint in the 2021 Census Release Schedule where population and dwelling counts became available. In our case, Summerside’s population had the largest increase since it became a City in 1995.
There’s always a bit of buzz in the days leading to this initial release because the population count sets a tone for the remaining releases throughout 2022. Also, it’s a reflection of how the community is making out, at least in a general sense. There is much more to simple people counts to address but, fundamentally, Summerside has been on the right trajectory.
When you ask the question “How are we doing?”, the population is an obvious go-to metric. Although it doesn’t tell you everything, it tells a broad tale about many areas including labour, schools, housing, services, immigration, and more — an increasing population is almost always a good sign.
Summerside’s Population Through the Years

Summerside’s population growth has been modest from 1996 to 2016, only increasing by 304. That’s just a 2.09% increase over a 20-year timespan. Looking more closely, we see that the population actually decreased from 2001 to 2006 — not exactly something to brag about.
However, the growth in the past 5 years has been exceptionally strong. This time, there’s an increase of 1,172 people, representing a 7.90% increase from 2016.
Population % Increases from 2016-2021

PEI has been growing significantly over the past several Censuses, but, up until now, that growth has been concentrated in areas outside Summerside despite its sound cost competitiveness and strategic approaches to growing the economy. It is very encouraging to now see Summerside as part of that growth. Our aim is to capitalize on this impressive number and continue this upward trend, particularly with attracting value-added companies and the jobs they bring.
Over the past couple of years, many of our newsletter articles have been touting things like immigration, new construction, low vacancy rates, and business expansions. With those things in mind, we suspected our population numbers would be better than usual, and the result exceeded our expectations. In the next article, we’ll examine what’s driving these numbers. The bottom line with these census numbers is that Summerside is on a positive path towards growth at least on a raw person count. The job moving forward now is to influence our business and employment stature to continue this positive trajectory.
Building Permits: What Lies Below

Summerside’s building permits have been the subject of much discussion lately, and for a good reason. 2021’s grand total of $73.7M completely shattered the previous record of $44.0M in 2011. That’s good, right? Well yes, but like the population count in the above article, although it’s an incredible overall success, there’s more to it.
So, what is the major driving force behind Summerside’s impressive permit values and population growth? It turns out residential development leads the charge. Ideally, our growth would be driven in a more balanced way where new labour opportunities from expanding business sectors would drive people, particularly young people and investment in business facilities in Summerside. This has happened in a marginal way, but most of the growth is due to people buying houses and renting apartments as soon as they’re built.


From 2019 onward, building permits have had strong totals but have been dominated by residential, though 2021 had a decent commercial value. Industrial space is significantly underrepresented — we’ll come back to this later. The point is: If there’s too much of a disparity, it can lead to some undesirable long-term effects.
Summerside is the major municipality for the western half of PEI. It is naturally set up for conducting business with 2M sq ft of retail space, 450k sq ft of office space, and 800k of industrial space. It’s also home to a Holland College campus as well as a strong labour pool, particularly with respect to manufacturing, retail, health, and administration, to name a few. Summerside has a lot to offer, and it's imperative businesses understand that.

The longer residential continues as a dominant driver, the tougher it becomes to rebalance. The attitude of the labour force changes, expectations about land use change, and businesses aren’t as enticed by cities that are dominantly residential.
Nonetheless, even with residential leading the way, it still brings opportunities with it. New residents require new services, and there are new business opportunities to take advantage of. The key is that business investments keep pace with residential in a timely fashion.
One of Summerside’s recent strategies to try to rebalance this inequity is to take a leadership role in the investment of employment lands and facilities, namely through Summerside’s new industrial Eco Park. It’s been decades since new industrial space has been built in Summerside. Further, according to the chart above, industrial investments have been very low, almost non-existent, for the past five years.
The case for a new building at the Eco-Park is simple. We have an established workforce in industrial sectors, we have some of the strongest economic fundamentals on the island and have a compelling story to tell on our innovation and green agenda. Statistics across our nation illustrate that building new space is cost-prohibitive for most companies to undertake, given its long ROI metrics. Summerside has certainly seen significant interest and activity of industrial investment, given our fundamentals and leadership is innovation and carbon-neutral approaches by firms wishing to establish an export-based enterprise in Summerside.

Summerside's main challenge, as with residential in past years, is it’s the lack of “just in time” space. This has limited our success in growing our industrial base and maintaining a healthy assessment balance. With the first phase of our first Eco Industrial Park completed and we turn our attention to “just in time” lease-ready space, we along with our partners, are now in a better position to start the rebalancing and engage in meaningful investment discussions with the business.
Let the rebalancing begin.
BluWave-ai Opens Centre of Excellence in Summerside
BluWave‐ai has launched the Canadian Smart Grid AI Center of Excellence at the City of Summerside, Prince Edward Island in partnership with Summerside Electric. The Center consists of a wind farm, solar array, battery storage, grid connection, smart metering assets, and a cloud-based AI optimization platform with networking to users internationally. The Center will serve as a real-world AI test center and support international customers worldwide.

BluWave‐ai has been collaborating with Summerside Electric since 2018, using state-of-the-art artificial intelligence analytics to optimize the integration of renewable energy assets leveraging the physical renewable energy assets in the live testbed at the local utility.

In November 2021, BluWave‐ai and the City of Summerside announced the completion of the first-end to-end AI‐optimized grid in North America, the first industry-proof point of a scalable system applicable to entire regions and countries for transitioning energy networks toward maximizing the use of renewable assets. BluWave-ai has recently been awarded a major contract to advance Summerside’s system utility manager software in order to integrate a new 26‐megawatt Solar and Battery project.

BluWave‐ai chose to establish the Center in Summerside for easy access to a world-leading living testbed. The combination of smart grid assets and BluWave-ai intelligence puts the city ahead of any utility in Canada and several years ahead of Climate pledges outlined at the recent COP26 Summit.

“We know that as jurisdictions around the world are transitioning to a greener economy, look to grow their economies and attract the knowledge economy, this type of collaboration and commitment is key to growing our net-zero economy in Summerside,” said Brian McFeely, Chair of Summerside Economic Development. “BluWave‐ai has demonstrated their desire to service global markets in Summerside and attract talent, as well as grow and contribute to Summerside’s cleantech sector. The establishment of the Center is further evidence of the quality‐of‐life attraction for tech workers and Summerside’s value proposition in the growing cleantech sector.”

To learn more about job opportunities with BluWave-ai at the Canadian Smart Grid AI Center of Excellence at the City of Summerside, click here.
About Summerside
Summerside has long presented a compelling case for business investment with easy market access, lower costs and sophisticated infrastructure, along with international partnerships, making Summerside’s value proposition extremely attractive. The city has quietly created a unique environment in which local and international brands can access an experienced workforce, world‐class infrastructure, and a supportive and engaging business community, along with pro‐business government support. Underpinned by investments in low‐carbon energy and technological innovation, Summerside’s latest developer opportunities are founded on solid and secure ROI principles.
About BluWave‐ai
BluWave‐ai is focused on driving the proliferation of renewable energy and electric transportation worldwide. Our solutions apply artificial intelligence to optimize the cost, availability, and reliability of different energy sources, both renewable and nonrenewable, in real‐time. This lets our customers – communities, corporations and utilities – improve their energy decisions for sustainability, reliability, and affordability.

Brandon Paul, Marketing, BluWave‐ai


Summerside in Numbers

If interested in learning more about investment opportunities, economic development support or opportunities for growth, please call our Economic Development Professionals.
We would love to chat.

Alternatively, you can email us at
It could be 
the most profitable email you ever send.

Michael Thususka
Director of Economic Development City of Summerside
275 Fitzroy Street, Summerside PE C1N 1H9
M: 902.432.0103, E:

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