Process still going to buy tourist centre
The vacant Ontario Travel Information Centre here hopefully will be opened as a joint venture next spring.
Regional economic developer Geoff Gillon told town council Monday night that the Rainy River Future Development Corp. continues to be in contact with Infrastructure Ontario regarding the sale of the building.
Gillon said there’s been two serious inquires regarding renting the building, which has been promoted with the assumption the town will own it and make it available for a joint venture by next spring.
He noted a site locator from Toronto came here in June and toured all of the buildings in Fort Frances and the surrounding area, adding she was impressed with the former OTIC and may have clients that are interested in it.
Gillon said a survey of the community was done and some local parties are interested in using the OTIC.
But he stressed the key is to get interested groups that can pay rent.
The idea is for the town to buy the building and use part of it as tourism centre while renting out space to others.
In other news, an exercise to “brand” Fort Frances is poised to begin later this year.
Council previously had agreed the exercise is necessary due to the need to replace signage at the town’s entrances, the lack of a consistent message in the town’s marketing, and the need to create a plan around the purchase of the tourist centre.
The RRFDC has been researching costs and discussing the processes used with communities that have gone through successful branding exercises.
A request for proposals (RFP) to hire a firm to do a branding exercise for Fort Frances was issued in July and has drawn significant interest from a number of firms, Gillon said.
The RFP is due in early September, with community and stakeholder consultation to take place shortly thereafter.
Other RRFDC activities in the second quarter have included:
•working with two developers who have shown an interest in the condo property on Front Street (if a commitment to purchase cannot be obtained, the property will be advertised in Winnipeg and directly marketed to about a dozen other smaller developers);
•working with the Economic Development Advisory Committee on forest tenure reform, trying to figure out what is the best strategy for forestry here in the future;
•receiving $270,750 in funding from the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corp. to help pay to research diversifying the local economy (the RRFDC is hoping to receive similar funding from FedNor for the project);
•promoting the industrial park and sending an offer from a buyer to council;
•hiring an intern who was able to organize the Canada Day parade and help with the “Pulling for Peace” international tug-of-war (two summer students also have been working at the border handing out tourism information);
•participating in the “Escape to Ontario” ad campaign and working with the Sunset Country Travel Association, offering information to be used with its new iPhone application (the app provides information on Fort Frances sites and activities, along with other locations in the Kenora-Rainy River area); and
•applying to the Northern Communities Investment Readiness fund for the Rainy River District Personal Services Business Sector Analysis Project (this is to review the for-profit personal services business sector related to allied health and aging within the district).
This also will include supporting the Fort Frances Family Health Team in its efforts to redevelop the vacant former library building into a health and personal services centre.
As well, the RRFDC is assisting the clinic board in locating funding for a feasibility study/business plan.