BR&E survey moving along Chamber looking to replace Dittaro

About 20 local business owners have given their input on how the town can better keep businesses alive and encourage economic growth since the business retention and expansion survey was launched by the Fort Frances Chamber of Commerce a month-and-a-half ago.
“There’s been an excellent response,” said community development officer Kerri Dittaro.
“All the businesses have been extremely co-operative,” she added. “They’ve provided a lot of great information, which should be very helpful when they’re forming a long-term action plan at the end.
“I’m still calling businesses to line them up to take the survey. If anyone wants to take the survey, they can give me a call,” noted Dittaro, adding two volunteers—Gord McBride and Irene Laing—have been trained to help conduct the survey interviews, which will help out greatly.
While Dittaro will be leaving the role of community development officer for a job with Service Canada later this month, she stressed the business retention and expansion project will continue.
“In the next couple of weeks, I’ll try to do as much work as possible to make sure that there’s no delay in the project,” she stressed. “I’m trying to do as many surveys as possible.”
Dittaro, whose last day at the Chamber will be May 15, added she’s hoping to be able to help out the BR&E task force in any way she can.
Meanwhile, Chamber president Christine Denby said Monday they are in the process of working out the funding details for Dittaro’s replacement.
The position, which was for a one-year term, was made possible through a Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corp. (NOHFC) grant.
The BR&E committee is trying to find out whether the new community development officer will finish off the remaining six months in Dittaro’s term, or whether they could get an extension and have the replacement work a full 12-month term.
“The steering committee for the BR&E project did meet last week and has some ideas,” noted Denby. “Dawn [Booth] is going to pursue hiring someone.
“It certainly doesn’t mean the project is dead. We’re going to carry on,” she stressed.
“She’s certainly got the project well underway,” Denby said of Dittaro. “Kerri’s been really good and is going to help the new person with the transition.
“Plus, we’ve also got the experience of Crystal Godbout, who had run the project five years ago, and Jane Gillon from the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines.
“They’ll be able to access resources for the new person once they’re hired.”
For those business owners who haven’t heard of the business retention and expansion survey yet, Dittaro stressed the survey does not take up a lot of a participants’ time nor require much effort.
Either she, McBride, or Laing sit down with each participating business and personally conduct the survey (they do all the writing).
The survey entails answering a series of standardized questions—many of which can be answered simply by checking off a box while others call for the participant to give more personalized input.
By taking the survey, participants not only get to voice their concerns about retaining and expanding local business, but also will learn to take better advantage of the business resources available in the community as well as be able to help set priorities on the future direction of local economic efforts.
Once enough surveys are completed, the data will be compiled and analyzed. All information participants provide will remain confidential during the process.
The business retention and expansion task force then will put together a report and eventually create a long-term action plan based on the survey findings.
Any Fort Frances business interested in participating in the survey can call the Chamber at 274-5773.