RRFDC to gauge interest in ‘Go Local’

Duane Hicks

The Rainy River Future Development Corp. wants to gauge the business community’s response in 2011 to the notion of an integrated rewards card program that would help keep more spending local.
RRFDC client services manager Geoff Gillon told town council Monday night they’re following up on the “Go Local” initiative, which first was presented by Terry Garrett of Sonoma, Calif.-based Sustaining Technologies during the “Northern Networks” trade conference held here in September.
Taking a cue from Garrett’s program, the business community here could buy into a system where they issue rewards cards which give consumers discounts while helping businesses track their sales and build customer loyalty.
There also is a local community capital aspect to the program, where a small percentage of profits eventually could go back into helping grow the local business community.
If enough businesses buy in, participants could promote themselves as a “Go Local” community, district, or even region.
“The RRFDC hopes to further that initiative and attempt to bring the ‘Go Local’ project to Rainy River District in 2011,” Gillon remarked.
“We look forward to bringing [Garrett] back and working with the area businesses to see if this is something that will work,” he added.
“One of the biggest issues in economic development is to keep your money from leaving, and with the [Canadian] dollar where it is, substantial amounts of money are leaving Fort Frances to other areas, especially commercial and retail sales.”
In related news, the RRFDC is trying get a Toronto developer to invest in the district.
Gillon said an unnamed developer came here in early August as part of an “Inward Investment Tour.”
“He toured both Fort Frances and the Rainy River District,” Gillon told council. “He’d never been here before, and I have to say the gentleman has significant investments in Toronto.
“He invests in apartment buildings, hotels, motels, and condominiums.
“We’re trying to broaden our reach,” Gillon explained. “We do have a condominium developer that’s in Fort Frances, and hopefully things will come of it, but it appears to be delayed.”
Gillon said the developer was “pleasantly pleased” with his visit here. And after living many years in congested parts of southern Ontario, found this part of the province to be “a breath of fresh air.”
He added that with Porter Airlines running flights from Toronto Island’s City Centre Airport to Thunder Bay, the developer thinks there’s “potential for the future.”
“We went back down about a month-and-a-half ago and met with him, he’s still eager, still keen,” Gillon noted.
“We’re broadening our talks with him.
“If current projects don’t go forward, we’re hoping to be in contact for future projects.”
In another instance of promoting Fort Frances as a place to invest in, Gillon said that during the “Northern Networks” trade conference this fall, he met some representatives from the Iron Range Institute of Technology who are involved in the development of the new Essar steel mill in Minnesota.
“In the last month, we did a tour of the Iron Range, we did a tour of the steel mill, we met the people from Hibbing, we met the people from Essar,” he told council.
“This project is essential to trying to locate and position Fort Frances as a community that has things happening and has access to the U.S.,” Gillon stressed.
“Not only are we a community in Northwest Ontario that has current mining activity, whether it’s Rainy River Resources or Hammond Reef in Atikokan—they’re all within a 100-mile radius—but also have an East Indian company, Essar, spending well over $1 billion 150 miles south of Fort Frances.
“So we’ve been able to make some contacts there.
“[We’ll be] going back and forth down there over the next few months to more clearly identify the opportunities down there, and then bring them back and inform the business community of Fort Frances and the district of what actually is happening there and around us,” said Gillon.
Subsequent to that, Gillon said the RRFDC will continue to market Fort Frances in western Canada or the Greater Toronto Area to convince companies that this is the place to be.
“To date, we’ve had some success in people interested in Fort Frances,” he noted. “As most recently as today [Monday], we had an inquiry from someone looking for a vacant building.
“We hope it’s working and we hope it will help us in the future.”