Partners launch local business survey

FORT FRANCES—After months of preparation, the Fort Frances Chamber of Commerce, in partnership with the Rainy River Future Development Corp. and Town of Fort Frances, launched its new business retention and expansion survey Monday afternoon.
Starting now, local businesses are being asked to participate in the survey, community development officer Kerri Dittaro said at the launch, which was attended by just under 20 people in the boardroom at the RRFDC’s office.
Dittaro, who started working on the survey in January along with the local business retention and expansion task force, said she’s aiming for 100 businesses to take part.
“It is extremely important to the project to have the participation of the local business; maximizing survey responses gives the community a clearer representation of what issues are affecting the entire business community.” Dittaro said.
She wants to start conducting surveys in April.
The survey is “in-depth,” and will take about 45 minutes to an hour to complete. Either Dittaro, or one of several trained volunteers, will be sitting down with each participating business and personally conducting the survey.
The survey consists of 15 questions that were devised by the task force, which consists of representatives from the Chamber, the town, RRFDC, BIA, Ministry of Northern Development and Mines, Confederation College, the Economic Development Advisory Committee, Abitibi-Consolidated, and Couchiching First Nation.
Dittaro will be entering survey data as she goes along, with survey analysis likely to start in June. She added all information participants provide will remain confidential.
The business retention and expansion task force then will put together a report and create a long-term action plan based on the survey findings.
Dittaro said the survey not only will let the business know that the partners appreciate what they contribute to the community, but will serve as a sounding board for their concerns.
By taking the survey, businesses also will learn to take better advantage of the business resources available in the community, and be able to help set priorities on the future direction of local economic efforts.
The business retention and expansion project is financially supported by the Chamber of Commerce, RRFDC, and Town of Fort Frances, with the groups contributing $5,000, $7,500, and $5,000, respectively, to the initiative.
Dittaro’s position was made possible through a grant from the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corp.
Any Fort Frances business interested in participating in the survey can contact Dittaro at 274-5773 or via e-mail at
Business retention and expansion programs have been implemented in hundreds of rural and urban communities across the United States.
It was introduced on a pilot basis in Ontario in 1998.
The results of provincial pilot projects have been impressive: development of a more business-friendly attitude, new local investment, more jobs, fewer barriers to development, and easier access to financing, to name a few.
In 2001, the Fort Frances Chamber of Commerce spearheaded a business retention and expansion project, surveying 54 locals businesses.
Ten strategies were identified in a resulting action plan, including:
•a three-year marketing plan just recently wrapped up by the RRFDC;
•strengthening skills of business owners and their employees;
•input to municipal government; and
•ways to reduce barriers to business growth.