NOHFC programs still fostering prosperity

Just over two years ago, our government unveiled six new Northern Ontario Heritage Fund programs that would become an integral part of the Northern Prosperity Plan.
At that time, I said the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund would now do what it was meant to do when former Liberal premier David Peterson announced its establishment in 1988.
It would help foster job creation, strengthen the northern economy, and be an important partner in developing northern communities.
We delivered on that commitment and we continue to work with our northern stakeholders to make improvements along the way. A a result, I recently announced our government is fine-tuning some of its Northern Ontario Heritage Fund programs.
Since the introduction of our six core programs in January, 2005, the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund has partnered with literally hundreds of northern investors, entrepreneurs, and communities on projects that have created thousands of jobs and strengthened communities across the north.
In fact, since October, 2003, we have committed more than $197 million to some 900 northern projects—helping to create or sustain nearly 7,400 jobs across the north.
This funding has leveraged an additional $650 million in investments from our partners. That’s a massive amount of financial and human capital driving growth and prosperity of Northern Ontario.
The enhancements I recently announced are designed to:
•accelerate the development of telecommunications infrastructure throughout the north;
•respond to the region’s business and industrial energy conservation and generation needs; and
•provide greater flexibility and opportunity for youth training.
First, we are bringing a renewed focus to our “Emerging Technology Program” to invest in telecommunications infrastructure projects that will help bring broadband Internet to what we hope will be most of the north within three years.
Through our enhanced program, we will encourage the building of common cellular and broadband networks at the same time, using many of the same components, therefore reducing overall cost of implementation and expanding cellular service in the north.
Secondly, the NOHFC is introducing a new Northern Energy Program to replace the existing Small Business Energy Conservation Program.
It introduces three new components and retains one popular aspect of the previous program, focused on assisting northern organizations capitalize on new energy opportunities.
Our new Northern Energy Program will help private- and public-sector partners by helping to pursue clean, renewable energy generation capacity, reduce demand on external energy sources, and produce energy for sale to the electrical grid.
The Northern Energy Program also will continue to offer the popular New Internal Energy Generation Projects portion of the program which, as of December, 2006, had contributed nearly $820,000 for 28 energy projects.
These projects include a number of wind power and solar energy projects across the north.
The old Small Business Energy Conservation Program depended on co-funding from the federal government. This is not a requirement of our new program—a change we believe will generate a significant number of applications and new projects that will lead to both construction and long-term job creation in the north.
Finally, under the Northern Ontario Youth Internship and Co-op Program, employers now are eligible for funding for up to two intern positions, mature students now qualify as program participants, and eligible employers will be eligible for more than one year of funding for an intern if that experience is required for the intern to receive a professional designation.
These changes will make it more enticing for employers to apply for funding and create many new opportunities for the NOHFC to invest in the development of the north’s future professionals.
Over the last two years, our Young Entrepreneur Program already has invested more than $1.3 million to help some 65 young people launch their own businesses.
The Northern Ontario Heritage Fund has reclaimed its role as an important catalyst for economic, community, and infrastructure development in the north.
I am confident our improved NOHFC programs will continue to help northerners take advantage of new economic opportunities and improve the quality of life in Northern Ontario.
As Northern Development and Mines minister and NOHFC chair, I wish all our partners continued success, and I look forward to working with all of you to bring economic growth and prosperity to your communities.

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