Successful communities find ways to re-invent themselves

If we look at the history of Rainy River District, we can discover peoples successfully have lived off the bounty of the area for thousands of years.
From the earliest Laurel people through to present day, the natural bounty of the region supplied its settlers’ needs. They travelled through the area trading for goods and food.
European travellers, passing through the area, found it rich in fur and built forts and established new settlements complementing those of the First Nations people who already were here.
The beaver were trapped, traded, and shipped back to Europe. We might not have called it global trading, but in essence it was.
Other Europeans arrived and began tilling the land. To meet the needs of those growing communities, logging began. Sawmills were built, and white and red pine logs were sawn into building materials and shipped off to Minneapolis, Chicago, and Winnipeg.
Eventually, the old-growth forests all were harvested and second growth began sprouting and recovering the shield. Much of the forestry industry departed, making way for a paper industry to flourish.
The communities grew.
The farms of the district supplied the meat and milk to the grocery stores. The paper mills shipped paper across North America and to the world. They often were built around falls and many Northern Ontario communities had electricity before their neighbours to the south did.
It, too, was a global trading.
At various times, gold was extracted from the ground but it, too, eventually petered out. Prospectors, though, continue to look for new veins of rich ore.
To sustain the community, small factories sprouted up making bricks, windows, boats, beer, turning milk to cream and butter and ice cream, and flour into bread.
Over time some began disappearing. Those products were imported into the area. Railroads came and roads were built connecting the communities.
Telephones connected businesses to larger centres. Orders could be faxed one day and delivered the next.
In other parts of the province, factories produced carpet, fabric, shirts, electrical appliances, chocolates, and more. The successful factories grew and shipped their products into other communities.
They, too, eventually disappeared.
The railway came to International Falls and tourist camps sprouted on Rainy Lake, Lake of the Woods, and Clearwater attracting visitors from Minneapolis, Milwaukee, and Chicago.
Air services took them into the interior of Northwestern Ontario.
Retailers built businesses around servicing those customers. But the business has reached a plateau. Operators of lodges, and air and guide services, now wonder what they have to do to attract growth again.
In small communities across this country, everyone wonders what will create new opportunities in their communities. Can they become part of the new knowledge-based economy? What knowledge can they sell to the world.
Leaders look at the lands surrounding their communities and wonder if new opportunities exist for the resources at hand. Can the trees, and fields of grass and straw, become a new valuable product?
They ask “Who can we persuade to come to our communities and take a chance on their businesses future? What incentives might they offer to help a business locate?”
They look to the large pension funds of teachers, and civil servants, and wonder what would make it attractive for those funds to be invested back into rural Canada.
At each step of the cycle, successful communities found ways of re-inventing themselves, developing new partnerships and new business opportunities.
The communities found risk-takers and investors.

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