Weekly Activity Reports - April 2015

April 30, 2015

  • Officials in Sault Ste. Marie are moving forward with a bid to host the 2017 Tim Hortons Brier. The bid committee consists of reps from Tourism Sault Ste. Marie, the City of Sault Ste. Marie, Soo Curlers Association, and Tarentorus Sports Club. The group was successful at securing funding from various sources, including City Council, Celebrate Ontario and local hotel owners. As well, more than 1,200 ticket deposits were generated from area citizens and businesses. With this progress, the committee will be submitting a bid to Curling Canada next week. A national body is expected to announce the winning community in September. As one of its core activities, Tourism Sault Ste. Marie, a division of the SSMEDC, works with community groups to secure major events that attract visitors and visitor spending.
  • On Wednesday, Tom Dodds, CEO of the SSMEDC, was the keynote speaker for a business breakfast event from the Sault Ste. Marie Chamber of Commerce. Held at the Holiday Inn Express, the presentation dealt with lottery and gaming sector opportunities in the community. The SSMEDC is leading the SSM/OLG Modernization Project, which began in 2012 after the Provincial Government announced its intention to privatize the lottery and gaming sector in Ontario. The initiative is designed to best position Sault Ste. Marie to take advantage of this changing landscape. Ultimately, the SSMEDC is working to grow and retain the city's lottery and gaming industry, in both the public and private sectors.
  • A core part of the SSMEDC's activities is promoting Sault Ste. Marie around the world as a great place to do business. For example, earlier this week, Dan Hollingsworth, Executive Director of Business Development, attended the Great Lakes Economic Forum. With the region containing 105 million people and $5 trillion in gross domestic product, the annual conference brings together businesses and organizations looking for partnership opportunities. With this in mind, the SSMEDC attended the event to promote the Port of Algoma and other local projects. With continued investment and interest, the transportation infrastructure initiative, still in the development stage, has the potential to significantly alter the future of the local economy.
  • The SSMEDC is inviting expressions of interest from individuals to serve on its Board of Directors. To be considered as a candidate, individuals must submit a letter outlining relevant experience, the reasons for their interest and curriculum vitae by noon on Friday, May 8 to d.lafleur@ssmedc.ca. The SSMEDC's volunteer Board consists of representatives from Sault Ste. Marie's public, private and non-profit sectors. The organization's Board of Directors governance, along with other administrative matters, is facilitated by the SSMEDC's Corporate Services division.

April 24, 2015

  • The SSMEDC's Small Business Incubator project officially has a home. The facility, which will house new and existing business owners, will be located in the Mill Square Machine Shop at the former St. Marys Paper site. The space is currently being renovated, and the incubator is expected to be operational later this spring. When complete, the complex will provide space for entrepreneurs to operate their budding companies through the support of direct services, including coaching, mentoring and marketing assistance. The goal is to assist business owners to help them maximize their potential and develop a sustainable, long-term operation. The Small Business Incubator is a proven model for success. According to Forbes magazine, entrepreneurs who use the service have a success rate of over 80%, compared to about 33% for non-incubated companies.
  • Last year, Tourism Sault Ste. Marie hosted eight familiarization (FAM) tours from visiting travel writers, including a week-long shoot by the Emmy Award winning show Travelscope, which airs on the American TV station PBS. This and other activity from the SSMEDC division led to $578,000 in unpaid media promotion for the city and its tourism attractions. Where is this activity generated? A main source is the annual Canada Media Marketplace. Ian McMillan, Executive Director of Tourism Sault Ste. Marie, attended the forum this week. While there, he met with 22 media outlets, including USA Today, Canoe & Kayak Magazine, and a family travel show on PBS television. Tourism Sault Ste. Marie is now following up with these and other travel media to arrange upcoming FAM tours to generate more unpaid promotion for the community and its tourism assets.
  • Last month, nearly 300 youth and their adult allies gathered to share ideas and generate solutions on how to make the Sault a better place to live, learn, work and play. This week, participants from the Youth Engagement Forum presented some key findings to Mayor Provenzano. Among the priorities identified were: create a youth hub, finalize an online youth portal, increase mental health services, create alternative post-secondary options, and build relations with City Council and the Mayor's Youth Advisory Council. At the forum, participants were divided into peer groups, where they discussed specific issues and ideas to solve them. Some youth also took part in an Entrepreneurial Challenge, led by the Algoma District School Board and SSMEDC. The event was facilitated or supported by various groups, including Vive Consulting and the SSMEDC.
  • Mike Barker, former volunteer Chair of the SSMEDC's Board of Directors, recently received the Bayly Award from the Ontario Professional Foresters Association. The award recognizes contributions to the profession and practice of forestry by someone who is not a member of the association. Mike joined the Ontario Department of Lands and Forests in 1961 where he was employed in many different roles until 1993. Since leaving government, he has operated a consulting business offering services in natural resource issue management, facilitation, government liaison, strategic planning and project management. A widely-respected entrepreneur and community volunteer, Mike joined the SSMEDC's volunteer Board of Directors in 1999 and served as Board Chair from 2000 until his retirement in 2004.

April 17, 2015

  • Two major high school basketball tournaments are taking place in Sault Ste. Marie in the next few years. The Essar Centre is hosting the 2016 Ontario Federation of School Athletics Association Men's "A" Basketball Championships in 2016, followed by the OFSAA Men's "AA" Basketball Championships in 2017. The events, which will attract hundreds of visitors, were recently secured by Korah Collegiate coach Jeff Giovanatti, with support from Tourism Sault Ste. Marie, a division of the SSMEDC. Several years back, Tourism Sault Ste. Marie and its accommodations partners purchased a portable basketball floor. The investment has allowed the community to host a number of high-profiled events, including the 2012 OCAA Men's Basketball Championships and several visits from the famed Harlem Globetrotters. The OFSAA tourneys will add to this list.
  • A major component of economic development is helping local firms with their expansion projects, which ultimately create or retain jobs. As an example, the management team from Sutherland Global Services met with the SSMEDC recently. The company provides business-process outsourcing services and is looking to hire around 250 people at its local office. During the conversation, the SSMEDC's focus was a simple yet effective: "How can we help?" From there, the SSMEDC put Sutherland in touch with regional employment agencies and other organizations, including the City's Social Services Department, which has direct access to people seeking employment. Helping its clients, many of whom are external companies looking to establish or expand operations here, make these types of strategic connections is a main focus of the SSMEDC.
  • Last year, Tourism Sault Ste. Marie's activity in securing conferences and sports tournaments generated 22,780 visitor days and $3.2 million in direct visitor spending. Between 2010 and 2014, this activity led to 173,280 visitor days and $24.4 million in direct visitor spending. How does the SSMEDC division deliver such results, and where does it generate its leads from? One place is the iBE Expo, held earlier this week in Toronto. While there, Tourism Sault Ste. Marie staff met and entered into formal discussions with representatives from a number of organizations that hold recurring events across the country. The goal of this type of outreach activity, which has seen considerable success in recent years, is to promote Sault Ste. Marie as a solid place to hold conferences and sports tournaments.
  • Industry and Stakeholder firms in the Sault Ste. Marie are now able to take advantage of a new training program. With funding support from FedNor, Excellence in Manufacturing Consortium launched a two-year "Productivity/Lean Management and Productivity Cluster Initiative" earlier this week. It's designed to help local firms build greater competitiveness through management skills development, productivity growth and deployment of a grass-roots cluster network. Participants are able to access new Lean Management System Training, deployed through monthly modules, delivering productivity management skills and systems capabilities. The SSMEDC, a longtime partner of the Excellence in Manufacturing Consortium, is helping the organization roll out and promote the program. For more information, please visit www.emccanada.org.

April 10, 2015

  • The ACR passenger rail service received 3-year funding approval from Transport Canada last week. The transportation link is set to remain on track with its new operator, Railmark. The ACR Passenger Service Working Group would like to express delight at the government's approval-in-principal of funding. The Working Group would also like to thank MP Bryan Hayes for his efforts in making this possible. The investment from Transport Canada will allow the service to keep running while its new operator delivers its plan to make the line self-sustaining. The three-year funding will be provided on a declining basis of $2.20 million in 2015/16, $1.725 million in 2016/17, and $1.358 million in 2017/18. Chaired by City CAO Joe Fratesi, the Working Group represents a larger committee of regional stakeholders, including the City of Sault Ste. Marie, SSMEDC, Tourism Sault Ste. Marie, and home and cottage owners who rely on the ACR line.
  • The local bid committee that's looking to secure the 2017 Tim Hortons Brier is all-smiles. As part of the bid process, the group asked citizens and businesses to make $50 deposits on tickets, which would help show Curling Canada that the community has the support required to host the National Men's Curling Championship. With the ticket drive having ended last week, the number of sales exceeded the committee's expectations by 20%. Simply put, the group is thrilled, as the high number of deposits will be a significant component of the local bid, which is expected to be submitted later this month. The bid committee consists of Tourism Sault Ste. Marie (a division of the SSMEDC), the City of Sault Ste. Marie, Soo Curlers Association, and Tarentorus Sport Club.
  • A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held at the newly-renovated George Leach Centre at Algoma University this week. The fitness and athletics facility underwent a $4.9-million, 10,000-square-foot expansion. The renovations include additional cardio and weight room space, locker rooms, offices, and training rooms. Along with the jobs created during construction, the enhancement project is also creating five new positions within the George Leach Centre while also helping to attract students to the school. The SSMEDC supported Algoma University in the expansion initiative. Under the Corporation's Business Retention & Expansion program, SSMEDC staff assisted the university in developing the funding application to the Provincial Government, which secured $2 million from the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund, thus making the expansion project possible.
  • Tourism Sault Ste. Marie recently finalized a deal with Sault College to secure a co-op student from the school's Public Relations & Event Management program. Aislyn Ireton begins a one-month volunteer placement at the SSMEDC office on Monday. As part of her role, she will help develop marketing materials that showcase and capture the Sault's vibe. Aislyn will interview community members and groups to discuss why they love Sault Ste. Marie. She will then take what she finds and script some social media blogs, website posts and Twitter tweets, as well as create a video presentation that captures this enthusiasm. The ultimate goal is to help Tourism Sault Ste. Marie, which is a division of the SSMEDC, attract and promote upcoming convention and sport tournament bids.