Bandwidth key to economic growth: Gillon

Continued efforts aimed at improving telecommunications technology is the key to attracting new businesses to Fort Frances and district, economic development advisor Geoff Gillon told town council in his quarterly report Monday night.
Gillon, with the Rainy River Future Development Corp. here, said the RRFDC has worked hard on getting communication projects–like the call centre in Atikokan–up and running.
Gillon also noted he’s already attended several meetings with Atikokan and Thunder Bay Telephone to finalize the agreement for the cellular phone project, which would provide service from Shabaqua to Rainy River.
A copy of the agreement should be before council to vote on in August, he noted.
Gillon said talks with Bell Canada also are progressing to have the telephone switch here upgraded.
“It’s been a long process,” he admitted, noting the RRFDC has been working on it for the past four years.
“But we are optimistic something will happen in the next year,” he said. “We’ve got all indications from senior government that they will assist to some degree putting it in.”
Meanwhile, Gillon said there’s been plenty of activity in Rainy River District over the past four months, such as the expansion at NorFab here and the continued work at Globeco in Rainy River.
Gillon also said he recently found out Normiska is expanding its operation here to include a bagging facility.
By improving telecommunications access in the district, the chance of Fort Frances landing more business just gets better, he noted.
“Access to broad bandwidth at an affordable rate is necessary to attracting new businesses,” he stressed. “Our goal with all these projects is to drive that infrastructure–it is as essential as the railroad was.
“This type of infrastructure in the community, and a proactive council looking to make development in the community, is what we need,” he argued.
Gillon also recommended council allow him to do a review on the pricing of the industrial lots in town. He noted since council doubled the price in 1998, interest in buying them has dropped off.
“I’m asking council to take a look at that–is it the prices, is it the services?” he remarked. “Let us come back in the fall with another recommendation.”
Finally, Gillon showed council some of the brochures that have been created recently about the district, and also reminded them this Friday was the grand opening of the “MOM’s Highway” concept in Rainy River.
“Personally, I’ve very excited about that project,” he said, noting the towns along the route between Shabaqua and Steinbach, Man. would benefit from the “efforts and energy” of all the others.
“It brings all these things that we’ve been doing individually as communities into focus,” he reasoned.