Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Summer festival in works here

Planning is underway for a 2014 summer festival which would bring together performers and instructors from First Nations and the Métis community.
Regional economic developer Geoff Gillon told town council Monday night that the RRFDC is trying to extend the usage of the big tent on the riverfront before the Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship, so an event is being planned for July 17-19.

The Music Festival and Cultural Exchange will bring together people from both sides of the border (after all, the waterfront has been a traditional meeting and trading place for the Ojibway peoples dating back to pre-contact).
The festival will feature two nights and one afternoon of entertainment for visitors under the big tent.
Gillon said a committee is being assembled and funding applications are being made.
“What we’re trying to do is create activities . . . we’re working towards building events throughout the month of July so that someday in the not-too-distant future, we maybe be able to put something down there on a more permanent basis and have activities,” he explained.
The RRFDC organized the Canada Day parade this year at council’s request, and will do so again in 2014.
RRFDC also assisted with the bass tournament, the “Pulling for Peace” tug-of-war, the dragon boat races, and “Kraft Celebration Tour” wherever it could.
It also has assisted NCDS with its “Celebration Ontario” application for an expanded Dragon Boat Festival next July.
As well, the RRFDC had students stationed at the border here for 50 or more hours each week all summer long to greet tourists and provide information.
Gillon hopes they can do it again next summer, adding it’s still not clear as to what will happen with the tourist information building here.
The RRFDC has organized with the Fort Frances Chamber of Commerce a subsidized system that will allow them to claim tourism expenditures placed on the town’s behalf for FedNor or Ontario Heritage Fund funding.
As previously reported, Calgary-based Twist Marketing was hired to conduct a branding exercise here, and currently is working with the community to get feedback and develop a brand.
Gillon explained that Twist was hired via a request-for-proposal process, which drew 16 inquiries and five proposals from across North America.
An independent committee met, decided what they wanted in a marketing firm, developed a matrix using that criteria, reviewed the proposals for about a week, and then hired Twist Marketing.
As per the RFP process, as opposed to a straight tendering process, the decision was not just predicated on the lowest bid but also on criteria such as experience.
Gillon said the independent committee “picked the one that they thought was best for the community.”
The branding exercise should be wrapped up in late March or early April, at which time Twist will present its findings and recommendations.
The Rainy River Future Development Corp., meanwhile, continues doing its part to help get ready for future gold mining activity here.
Gillon said he believes the town will benefit from the New Gold mine in two ways.
First, the town will be the location of choice for some smaller auxiliary industries that service this mine (and perhaps even mining operations in the Iron Range), and secondly, by becoming the place of residence for many of the new mine workforce.
The RRFDC has asked New Gold to do a presentation on procurement for the business community—to explain to businesses how New Gold buys goods and how businesses can provide those goods to the operation.
They also provided input on the Environmental Assessment for New Gold, requesting that the company provide incentives and assists that encourage local procurement.
As well, the RRFDC arranged a meeting between New Gold and area training organizations to discuss the training and skills development needs of the future mining operation.
It also supported Seven Generations Education Institute in its bid for training funds from Industry Canada’s Skills and Partnership Fund.
Gillon said the RRFDC also continues to advertise future opportunities related to the New Gold mine by highlighting the town’s low industrial park property prices and electricity prices in industry publications, and by attending trade shows.
In related news, the RRFDC continues to promote the industrial park, and is working with three potential new—or expanding—businesses looking to start up here.
One is a small-scale manufacturer that is growing and looking at Fort Frances a potential home.
As well, the RRFDC continues to offer any and all help it can to Resolute Forest Products, and is continuing to work with the Economic Development Advisory Committee on forest tenure reform.
A recommendation to town council regarding the latter should be forthcoming in the new year.
Meanwhile, the building incentive program is doing well, resulting in five successful building grant applications so far in 2013 (these grant mainly were for demolition).
The RRFDC also continues to actively seek private-sector developers for a condo project on the Front Street property.
Gillon said they’re currently working with two interested parties and hope council will be able to make an announcement soon.
Finally, the community is making a positive shift towards local shopping here.
Gillon said awareness of the “Go Local” rewards program is very high (82 percent), and that half of the households surveyed in Fort Frances have at least one membership in the household.
Seventy-three percent of respondents believe that urging residents to shop at locally-owned and operated businesses helps build a stronger community.
There has been a net increase of 20 percent in local spending by “Go Local” reward program member households compared to non-member ones.
“Go Local” has distributed Loyalty Reward Cards to half the households in Fort Frances, and re-invested $12,000 into the community.
More than 40 local merchants have enrolled in the program and increasingly are taking ownership of it, noted Gillon.
The RRFDC assists the “Go Local” program by marketing the advantages of the program to local businesses, as well as doing all program reporting, bookkeeping, and statements.

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