Atikokan given federal cash injection

In a move Thunder Bay-Rainy River MP Ken Boshcoff billed as a “Northwest solution for Northwesterners,” the federal government last week pledged more than $1 million to the Township of Atikokan to help spur economic development there.
Both Boshcoff and Andy Mitchell, the minister of state for FedNor, were in Atikokan on Thursday to make the announcement, which includes a $200,000 cheque earmarked for the creation of an economic recovery plan, plus an additional $850,000 to set up initiatives suggested by residents of the community during that process.
The move comes only six weeks after the province revealed the coal-fired generating station in Atikokan will shut its doors in 2007.
In a press release issued last week, government officials hailed the cash injection as part of their commitment to “opening doors and building futures for a prosperous Northern Ontario.”
The next step for Atikokan, which has a population of about 3,500, is to poll residents on possible new economic opportunities. A consulting firm will be brought in to help identify existing assets in the area, set goals, and provide advice.
“Atikokan’s recovery plan and fund will help our community to diversify and strengthen its economy as we work towards getting a lasting solution for the Atikokan generating plant,” Boshcoff said in the release.
“This strategic plan is critical to the long-term viability of Atikokan as it will identify new opportunities which have the potential to stabilize our local economy,” added Atikokan Mayor Dennis Brown.
“A critical part of the planning process will be the ongoing community consultations to keep people involved and up-to-date,” he remarked.
Also last Thursday, Boshcoff and Mitchell toured Atikokan’s Fibratech particleboard plant, where the federal government had made an investment of more than $2.75 million to help modernize.
Since taking over the plant last year, Fibratech has poured more than $8 million in private dollars into the plant, which formerly was owned by Proboard Ltd.
“I’m extremely pleased that FedNor has been able to contribute to rebuilding a pillar of Atikokan’s economy, as well as greatly strengthen the forest product industry of this area,” Boshcoff remarked.
When reached Friday, Boshcoff said the residents of Atikokan were “very appreciative” of the federal dollars.
“In terms of addressing particular needs for communities, Atikokan’s situation is pretty unique,” he noted. “It is as serious as it gets.”