‘Build and they will come’ touted at conference

“Build it and they will come,” an oft-repeated catch-phrase of the town’s economic development officer, was emphasized by Fort Frances CAO Bill Naturkach upon his return from the annual “Northern Networks” trade conference in Green Bay, Wis. last week.
The conference highlighted several economic development initiatives, among them the idea of building infrastructure–even shell buildings–and then attracting businesses to fill them.
Included was a tour of a town, similar in size to Fort Frances, which has held economic development at the forefront of operations using the “build it and they will come” initiative.
“There the perspective was build it and they will come and we actually went and saw it firsthand,” Naturkach said Tuesday.
“I appreciated the exposure to the economic field of business. It gives me a greater appreciation for that component of our business,” he noted.
Naturkach highlighted the importance of economic development to town council during its regular meeting here Monday night.
“There was one community that was the same size as ours and they have about five full-time economic development officers [while] we have one,” he recounted.
Naturkach, who attended the conference with economic development officer Geoff Gillon, of the Rainy River Future Development Corp., and Bruce Caldwell, of the town’s economic development advisory committee, suggested council apply to host an upcoming “Northern Networks” conference.
“I asked council to pass a resolution to host that conference in 2003,” he said, noting that would coincide with the town’s centennial.
Fort Frances already has hosted the “Northern Networks” conference once before.
Naturkach also brought back a Green Bay Packers “cheese head” which he presented to Coun. Deane Cunningham–an avid Packers fan.
Also during Monday night’s meeting, council approved a tender for Advisory Services to put together a proposal and business for a remand centre here on behalf of the town.
“The reason the committee is requesting the higher of the two proposals is because Advisory Services has experience with this sort of thing,” noted Mayor Glenn Witherspoon.
The group will lobby the province to allow Fort Frances to build a 28-bed remand centre and be compensated by the provincial government–a facility which would replace the Fort Frances Jail which is slated for closure in 2004.
“It determines the future of the courthouse–the whole judicial system here,” noted Coun. Cunningham.
Council also narrowly defeated a motion to purchase a $362,000 municipal computer system because it had not been part of the 2001 budget process.
Mayor Witherspoon and Couns. Neil Kabel and Sharon Tibbs had voted in favour of the motion while Couns. Roy Avis, Dave Bourgeault, and Cunningham voted against.
Coun. Struchan Gilson was absent from the meeting.
Council then passed a motion unanimously to include the new computer system in the town’s 2002 budget process.