Support sought for keeping on ag co-ordinator


With the three-year term for their current rural agricultural co-ordinator up at the end of this year, the Rainy River Future Development Corp. is asking district municipalities to show their support for the continuation of the position.
Regional economic developer Geoff Gillon said at Monday night’s council meeting that the RRFDC has applied to FedNor for project funding so they can hire a rural agricultural co-ordinator for 2010-12.
But Gillon said the RRFDC would like to get letters of support from the district municipalities and other organizations, outlining why they want a rural agricultural co-ordinator on board for another term and the economic benefits they see in having such a co-ordinator.
In a letter to council, Gillon elaborated: “While the Rainy River District is facing considerable challenges, area producers see business opportunities in many areas.
“Recent successes at area farmers’ markets have driven home the fact that local foods have a market and can add dramatically to the profitability of area producers’ operations,” he wrote.
“The district offers many advantages to present and potential producers, such as a central location in Canada, inexpensive land, and a solid agricultural infrastructure,” he added.
“The project will be very similar to the initial project, but with a greater focus on marketing and communications and commercialization of area products through a linkage with tourism and more promotion at the Royal Winter Fair,” Gillon noted.
Jeannette Cawston is the current rural agricultural co-ordinator.
Town council agreed to draft a letter of support for the Rainy River Future Development Corp., saying they would like to see the RRFDC hire on a rural agricultural co-ordinator for another three years (2010-12).
In other news, Gillon said the RRFDC continues to be very busy working to promote economic development here and diversify the economy, as well as promote it as a tourist destination.
“This has been a very challenging time both for Northwestern Ontario and for Fort Frances,” he conceded. “The future is not going to be the same as the past.
“We all hope the paper company sorts out the issues it has and goes forward with us in the future.
“But I think as a community, we have to start looking farther and broader at diversification strategies, and coming up with new and innovative businesses that can work in Fort Frances,” Gillon stressed.
“Part of it is basically for us to get out there and market the benefits and assets of Fort Frances and the quality of life, and look for opportunities for the community,” he explained.
One project being wrapped up right now is an asset analysis of Fort Frances meant to compile information on the community and use it for marketing purposes.
This analysis points out advantages to doing business in Fort Frances, such as adequately-priced industrial lots, low hydro rates, decent natural gas rates, a wait-free border (aside from a short time in the summer), and access to transportation routes (i.e., air, rail, and truck transport).
Gillon added the RRFDC has a strategic direction to attract residents. As well, over the next few months, they’re compiling a list of “ex-patriate Fort Franciscans” and will be contacting them to promote the benefits of moving back here.
Over the past few weeks, in fact, Gillon said he’s seen people around town who used to live here, whether they’ve moved back permanently or are just visiting.
“It’s interesting to see that the roots are still there for anybody that’s left,” he remarked.
Looking ahead to the new year, among the many trips to conferences and trade shows, there will be a sortie to the Bassmaster Classic 2010 trade show in Birmingham, Ala. in February to promote Rainy Lake and Fort Frances as a fishing destination.
As well, Fort Frances will get exposure when the Northern Networks Trade Conference is held here Sept. 15-16, 2010.