Changing the way we do business

At the “community summit” held in Fort Frances in January, 2005, the community identified seven sectors within the district of concern: tourism, value-added wood products, import substitution, agriculture, education, immigration, and retail service,
A year later, in looking back, many of the initiatives that were identified are moving forward.
Perhaps Abitibi-Consolidated is taking on the biggest project. In their drive to bring down costs, they have identified two areas for cost saving—gas and electricity.
Their answer comes from import substitution—replacing their gas-fired energy generators with a hog fuel energy generator producing steam and electricity from waste wood product.
In planning the change, management and corporate Abitibi are structuring the Fort Frances paper mill for long-term viability.
Meanwhile, the North Western Ontario Tourism Association (NWOTA), under the leadership of Jerry Fisher, is actively lobbying in Washington the need to change legislation to protect the region’s tourism industry.
NWOTA is looking at doing a study comparing accommodations and attractions to other resort areas. It also will examine what types of attractions or services would draw tourists to this area.
They hope the study will assist local operators and corporations plan for the needs of customers well into this century and strengthen the industry.
Jessie Zhang, an economic development intern with the Rainy River Future Development Corp., has been studying the opportunities and barriers to attract immigrants to Rainy River district.
Her report, which will be released shortly, will lay out a plan to make the district more attractive to potential immigrants.
Within the farming sector of Rainy River District, Trish Neilson has led a group of district producers through their own strategic planning session to improve the agricultural economy.
Four from the district just returned from a conference in London, Ont. examining agriculture innovation.
Last year, producers from the local Clover Valley Farmers’ Market began travelling to Kenora for a second weekly market. Hugely successful, the group now is looking to expand the market to another centre in the region.
Fort Frances Mayor Dan Onichuk and International Falls Mayor Shawn Mason have found that the two communities can work more closely together.
The issue of the proposed WHTI requirements, which impacts on tourism and community life between the two towns, has been actively lobbied by both mayors.
They also are co-operating on taking an active role in the sale of the international bridge linking the two communities.
Although in place prior to the last January’s “summit,” Percy Champagne, through Forintek and the Northwest Midwest Alliance, has been working with local value-added wood suppliers to expand their opportunities to sell in the United States.
Forintek and the Northwest Midwest Alliance are funded by communities and groups across the region.
The “community summit” identified these issues. Other groups have found the initiative to take the ideas and opportunities and move forward.
Strategic planning does not mandate that action take place, but identifies where the best use of resources and talent can be used.
I congratulate the people and businesses who are helping to change the way we do business in the district and creating new opportunities.

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