Fishing-related business potential touted for area

Bryce Forbes

The Rainy River Future Development Corp. is touting a new business opportunity locally to become a representative for fishing companies from the United States.
“We had a presentation on fishing opportunities that we have uncovered from our trips to Shreveport and Birmingham,” noted Geoff Gillon, client service manager for the RRFDC, referring to an open house held here last Tuesday evening.
“Basically, we talked about the overview and talked about the potential of Fort Frances being a distribution centre because of our access to the U.S. border,” he noted.
“How easy it is to get stuff shipped [to International Falls] and you could bring it over the border, repackage it, and distribute it in Canada,” he explained.
“We are close to Winnipeg if something comes from Asia,” Gillon added. “There are some tax rules if an American company ships the goods from China to Canada, they don’t have to pay certain taxes in the U.S., so it’s cheaper.
“They can sell it at a cheaper price here,” he stressed.
Although only seven people turned out for the open house, Gillon said he was okay with it since they all were interested in what the potential of such a business was.
“This is not for everybody,” he remarked. “The people that showed up, they are from companies I know that have been in the distribution business in the past, or currently in the business and they are looking for opportunities.
“We want people who could actually do this deal with the Americans—and that’s what we got.”
In simple terms, the opportunity is for business owners to partner up with one or a number of American fishing companies, who cannot be named due to confidentiality, to send their product up to Fort Frances and then have that person distribute it across Canada.
“If you are in the distribution business already and you are looking to make money, and if you can get the Canadian rights to a product, there is the opportunity to bring the product into Canada and distribute it,” Gillon explained.
“From an economic development point of view, we have to look at different avenues and this is just another opportunity,” he reasoned.
“It’s basically a way to tell the public there is an opportunity and allow business people to show up if they are interested.
“We aren’t in the business of picking,” Gillon stressed. “If we get a lead, we can’t just give it to a company. So this is a way to let people know what the opportunities are and then give the ideas to interested parties.
“It’s just another way to stimulate the economy the best way we can,” he remarked.
Doug Cain, who ran a company similar to this for around 15 years here back in the 1980s and ’90s, was among those who attended the May 25 open house.
“I had a couple of different roles when I was here in Fort Frances,” he said. “I had a couple of line I was manufacturing rep on and I had a couple of line that I stock, and a line I actually manufactured in Fort Frances.
“I did the manufacturing thing, I did the manufacturing rep thing, and I did the warehousing thing.
“I had to do all those roles together to make it work, and depending on what interests people now wanted to do, they could take on one of those three, two of those three, or all three to make it work,” he remarked.
Cain covered an area from the Alberta-B.C. border to Montreal, with a sales rep in both Winnipeg and southern Ontario to help him out.
“I don’t think you can do it on a smaller area and what we are looking at is the manufacturers level,” he stressed. “They are looking for a Canadian presence, not just a Fort Frances presence.
“[The companies] are looking to associate themselves with people who will represent them or warehouse them for all of Canada, and that will probably include creating partnerships with existing reps or existing wholesalers to make it work.”
Cain think the U.S. companies need to give Canada some more respect.
“With anybody in the American market, and they want to expand, they just need to take the Canadian market seriously,” he indicated.
“We can help them with getting their product across the border and going through the export routine for them, it was the paperwork, and the import routine for us, which was packaging concern.”
Cain added wheels already are in motion on the new business endeavour.
“When we were in Birmingham this year at the Bassmaster Classic, we basically pitched the idea to some American manufacturers and some of them became very interested,” he recalled.
“Now it’s just a matter of fine-tuning what’s going to work for them, make them more profitable and make their jobs a little easier coming into Canada and go from there.”
Gillon noted Rainy River District does hold some weight in the fishing world.
For instance, Rapala has been testing lures out on Rainy Lake before they make it on the market.