Welland, Ont, City, incorporated as a city in 1917, population 50 631 (2011c), 50 331 (2006c). The City of Welland is located on the NIAGARA PENINSULA, 24 km south of ST CATHARINES and named after the Welland River. It grew up where the WELLAND CANAL crossed the Welland River, and was the seat of Welland County from 1856 until regional government was established in 1970. Welland experienced extensive industrial growth and large-scale immigration from eastern and southern Europe after 1900 when its canal and railway were supplemented by hydroelectric power from NIAGARA FALLS and DeCew Falls.
In 1973 an improved bypass channel for the Welland Canal was constructed on the east side of the city. This was to be the first section of a fifth Welland Canal, but the remainder of the project is in abeyance because of a drop in canal traffic. The abandoned channel through the centre of the city has become a recreational waterway. The recent closure of industries manufacturing stainless and other steels and large-diameter pipes shows that heavy industry continues to decline; some longstanding manufacturing enterprises (agricultural machinery and automotive parts) remain. Service activities continue to expand. A major office of the CANADIAN TIRE CORPORATION is the city's largest employer.
Welland is home to Niagara College of Applied Arts and Technology, and is the centre of French education and culture in the Niagara region. Like so many smaller Ontario communities, the downtown retail core has been decimated by the expansion of suburban shopping malls, strip plazas and big-box stores. A depressed local economy makes attempts at revitalization difficult.