Tannis Drysdale steps down from Fort Frances Economic Development

By Allan Bradbury
Staff Writer

Tannis Drysdale, a longtime Economic Development consultant on contract with the Town of Fort Frances is moving on from the role after eight years.

Drysdale announced she would be working on her last report for the town at the Jan. 4 meeting of the Economic Development Executive Committee.

“It’s been a delight working for the town for all of these years and I’ve particularly enjoyed the leadership of some of the folks on this committee,” Drysdale said. “And working with previous mayors in terms of their forward thinking and I hope the town can find its way through this very difficult time that we’re in right now.”

During Drysdale’s time working with the Town of Fort Frances, she worked closely with the Rainy River Future Development Corporation (RRFDC). Executive Director Geoff Gillon says she was a great partner to work with on economic development in the region.

“She is as smart as a whip and will work around the clock to make sure priorities are accomplished,” Gillon said. “The Town and RRFDC have been fortunate that she landed here and Fort Frances and fell in love with our little town.”

Drysdale was humble in saying that she wouldn’t consider herself the most important person when it comes to projects she’s been a part of.

“My job is really facilitation,” Drysdale said. “I’m not the most important person in any room ever.”

Gillon says that Drysdale’s facilitation of many projects across the Rainy River District has been vital.

“Tannis was instrumental in developing the final stages of the Town’s waterfront development,” Gillon said. “She set the course for the region to develop a new forest management model that will result in transparency we have never had, for wood use volumes; she developed an award-winning support local program in GO LOCAL Fort Frances.”

Another of the projects that Drysdale played a big role in was the development of Rainy Lake Square. Drysdale worked to replace the former Rainy Lake Hotel property with something that benefitted the town and filled the space left when the hotel was demolished.

“Working with partners, the BIA (Business Improvement Association), and council, and a series of funders and public works we were able to recreate some of what the Rainy Lake Hotel was in a different way,” Drysdale said.

The Square has become a hit, hosting music on a regular basis during the summer, and a regular farmer’s market.

Gillon also recalled Drysdale’s work in trying to keep the forestry license in the region when the Fort Frances mill closed and planning new uses for former mill properties.

“When the mill announced it was closing, Tannis worked tirelessly with Council for years attempting to regain the wood rights and find a new and suitable buyer,” Gillon said. “Despite the hurdles, she located not one but three different potential purchasers. Unfortunately, circumstances were such that none of these deals could be closed. Today she has worked to encourage the next generation of opportunities on the mill sites, with Shevlin Green and the main properties currently in planning stages.”

Drysdale has also made a big contribution to tourism in the area.

“Tannis has worked hard to start building the foundation for a ‘staying’ tourism industry to grow,” Gillon said. “She opened, renovated, and staffed a tourism information center for all the years that the town rented the facility and has developed a functional committee that has the foundation for effective tourism marketing with the MAT (Municipal Accommodation Tax) committee.”

More recently with the COIVD-19 pandemic Drysdale has also helped out with businesses trying to keep up and running.

“I remember during the early days of COVID, with the world upside down and almost all government offices were closing and we were preparing to shut down here at the RRFDC,” Gillon said. “Tannis came into my office and said we couldn’t go home. She said that like never before in the history of the RRFDC local businesses were going to need us and we were essential. We needed to carry on. She was correct and as a result, we were able to make the darkest days for many local businesses a little more hopeful.”

Overall Gillon says Drysdale has done a great job in finding programs to get money for the Town of Fort Frances to be able to grow and succeed in addition to being able to use taxpayers’ money responsibly.

“One of the most remarkable aspects of Tannis’ work has been her fiscal responsibility with local tax dollars, typically being able to find grants and sponsorships to accomplish her tasks,” Gillon said. “In the decade she has managed literally millions of project dollars for the Town and she has never overspent by even a penny or missed a deadline.”

Drysdale’s work for the Town of Fort Frances wraps up at the end of March, Drysdale will continue working under contract with RRFDC in other capacities as well as taking on other clients in her consultancy work. As her time working in conjunction with the Town ends she looks back on it in a positive light.

“I really enjoyed working with the members of council and with previous councils, and certainly the last couple of CAOs, I’ve really enjoyed being a part of the team,” Drysdale said. “You know, it’s always harder and much more special when your client is what you consider your hometown, right? Your heart’s in it. It’s not just a report that you’re writing. You know, it’s 24 hours a day. But if it’s something you care about more than average consultants, then when you’re looking at something analytically, you’re also putting a little bit of heart into it.”

Tannis Drysdale is stepping away from her role as Economic Development consultant for Fort Frances. Her contract expires in March. – Facebook photo