Dawning of a new era

Duane Hicks

The Town of Fort Frances has adopted a new brand which knows no limits.
“Fort Frances Boundless” is not just a logo and slogan but a state of mind to strengthen the town’s position as industrial capital of Northwestern Ontario, explained Chris Fields, senior brand strategist with Twist Marketing, who presented “the brand’s story” to council and the public during Monday evening’s council meeting.
“Welcome to the future,” said Fields, noting that a way of life and an economy Fort Frances has known for generations is under threat, and the town is, and must be, more than a mill town moving forward.
Just like commercial entities need to be unique in a world where thousands of marketing messages vie for people’s attention each day, Fort Frances has needed to define itself as unique entity if it wants to attract new residents, investors or visitors, he added.
Fields noted the brand recognizes where Fort Frances has been, but also makes a firm, repetitive statement that “this is what you want to be relative to other communities in Northwestern Ontario.”
He added the town’s future lies not in relying on a major employer, such as a pulp and paper mill or a gold mine, but diversifying into multiple smaller industries, and it has to sell itself to the world more effectively.
The brand is about “jobs, jobs, jobs,” said Fields, but added 80 percent of employment growth these days comes from small enterprises and independent entrepreneurs.
“Don’t leap … from a mill town large corporation to resting your laurels on New Gold. Diversification is about getting out broader so that you can ride waves of whatever industry you encounter challenges with,” said Fields. “Don’t leap from one challenge right to the next challenge.”
The future also must include more collaboration with International Falls, area First Nations, and district municipalities.
“People working together have the ability to shape a destiny as opposed to accepting their fate. They can move marketplaces—I’ve seen that happen,” said Fields.
Fields said Fort Frances also must look at nurturing entrepreneurial culture with a people-drive strategy, including mentoring youth and encouraging home-based businesses, if it wants the business community to grow.
He added the idea of “home” resonates in everyone, and the notion of “reunion”—of having former residents consider coming back either to invest here or live here—should be mined for marketing.
Fields said people are talking about Fort Frances. The difference is now the town has opportunity in front of it to shape the way conversation takes place in the marketplace.
What does
the logo mean?
The “Fort Frances Boundless” logo is spring leaf green and deep grey, describing Fort Frances as the meeting place between the wilderness landscape and an industrial centre.
The wings of the bird has been interpreted as an eagle or a phoenix stretching to take flight, a symbol of freedom and rebirth, but upon closer look, the wings are also the two “Fs” in Fort Frances, back to back.
And the word “Boundless” describes the human spirit of entrepreneurship and the opportunity ahead of Fort Frances.
Fields noted that it’s possible, even likely, some people will not like the new brand, but at least they’re reacting to it. The more brave you are, the less consensus there is, but you have to be brave to get noticed.
He added that the French originally hated the Eiffel Tower, and now it’s iconic.
Fields stressed that the new logo is merely the tip of the iceberg, and while it is very important, it is supported by an ambitious underlying strategic plan.
The Fort Frances Boundless logo and identity will be used on all town marketing materials going ahead. The town will budget annually for costs of conversion, and has applied for a number of federal and provincial grants and those funds will help offset any costs involved in projects, such as the revamping of the town’s website.
The town also feels that the brand’s integration with local economic development efforts is an important investment which will provide long-term returns.
Twist Marketing began working with the town’s Economic Development Advisory Committee last fall, and over the past six months, arrived at the new brand identity through a process of reflection, review and research.
“A brand gives Fort Frances a sense of identity,” said EDAC chair Gary Rogozinski in a press release.
“It bonds us all together forming a unified body that will enhance economic progress,” he added. “It is our future!”
EDAC will continue marketing efforts for the community, working with community groups and the town on specific initiatives including Rainy Lake Market Square, the Border Tourist Information Centre, and the redevelopment of the town’s website to better attract new residents and investors.