Weekly Activity Reports - December 2015

December 31, 2015

  • Boniferro Mill Works, a longtime client of the SSMEDC, recently ratified a five-year collective agreement with United Steelworkers Local 1-1000, which represents the company's workforce. The new deal will provide an added level of stability for the business and its more than 50 staff. Since acquiring the Third Line West operation from Domtar in 2003, owner Jim Boniferro has worked with the SSMEDC on a number of growth initiatives. Most recently, Boniferro Mill Works utilized the Corporation's Business Retention and Expansion Program, which assists area companies in becoming more globally competitive, accessing funds and growing. With support from the SSMEDC, the company received a $1-million investment from the Province of Ontario earlier this year. The funding was part of a $3-million expansion project.
  • Vacation bookings on Tourism Sault Ste. Marie's online reservation system totaled over $1 million in 2015, which was more than double from the previous year. Available at www.saulttourism.com, the web-based portal was established in 2011 by Tourism Sault Ste. Marie. The first of its kind in Northern Ontario, it allows visitors to book their trip to the Sault with a simple click of the mouse. The online reservation system offers two and three-day packages that feature accommodations and major attractions such as the Agawa Canyon Tour Train and Searchmont Resort, along with packages that centre around things like a spa getaway and cross-country skiing. The portal also features special event tickets. For instance, passes for the 2016 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge are now being offered, with the early-bird special available until January 6.
  • As one of its core activities, Tourism Sault Ste. Marie works with local organizations to secure major events. The process usually involves developing a comprehensive bid package, which can take hundreds of hours to complete. Tourism Sault Ste. Marie is currently bidding on a business matchmaking conference. If successful, the event will be added to a growing list of recent success stories. In the past two months alone, Tourism Sault Ste. Marie helped secure a number of major events for the community, including the 2016 Ontario University Athletics Wrestling Championship, 2017 Festivals & Events Ontario annual conference, 2017 Canadian Youth Chess Championship, and 2017 Canadian Open Chess Championship. These events will attract thousands of visitors and inject millions of dollars of direct visitor spending into the local economy.
  • Yesterday, the SSMEDC released the latest edition of its bimonthly newsletter, The Pulse. The publication contains economic development-related stories for the community and is meant to provide citizens and partner agencies with an overview of the Corporation's activity, along with its programs and services. The Pulse is one of many communications methods used by the SSMEDC. In just the last three months, the Corporation published two newsletters, 16 press releases and media advisories, three articles for external publications, 14 weekly activity reports, 24 stories for the SSMEDC website, and more than 300 tweets that led to a growth of Twitter followers to over 1,400. During this same three-month period, the SSMEDC also facilitated three press conferences or announcements and released an updated Corporate Communications Plan.

December 24, 2015

  • For eleven days in July 2017, Sault Ste. Marie will be home to the nation's premier chess tournaments. Taking place at Sault College, the Canadian Youth Chess Championship will bring children from across the country to compete for the title of national champion, and the Canadian Open Chess Championship is expected to draw players of all levels from around the world. The events were secured by co-chairs Andrew and Roman Peredun, in collaboration with Tourism Sault Ste. Marie. With close to 1,000 participants, officials and supporters expected to attend, the events are projected to inject more than $1 million of direct visitor spending into the local economy, along with millions more in indirect economic activity. Tourism Sault Ste. Marie works with local organizations and individuals on attracting and securing major events like these.
  • New senior staffers recently joined the Ministry of Economic Development, Employment & Infrastructure and Ministry of Citizenship, Immigration & International Trade. The Provincial agencies are where the SSMEDC gets many of its business leads from. Ontario's North Economic Development Corporation, which represents the region's five major urban centres, networked with over 20 of these Ministry staffers last week. To ensure they have a solid grasp of the Sault's economic opportunities, the SSMEDC's Director of Business Development made the presentation on behalf of the community. The new Director of the Ministry's Trade Investment & Marketing unit and Chair of the Province's Multimodal Transportation Strategy also attended the meetings to present on the status of these projects and their alignment to the Growth Plan for Northern Ontario.
  • The SSMEDC is undertaking an initiative to develop an economic development plan for the community and surrounding area. The Corporation is now requesting proposals from firms with experience and expertise in conducting community and economic development consultation and planning processes to undertake specific activities in support of the following: the development of a five-year economic development plan for Sault Ste. Marie and area 2016-2020; the development of a five-year SSMEDC Corporate Strategy; and the development of a comprehensive community plan that incorporates and integrates this economic development strategy within the broader community plan. The deadline to submit proposals is January 20. To view the RFP, visit www.sault-canada.com/en/aboutus/howtodobusinesswithssmedc.asp.
  • A few months ago, the Bow Lake Wind Farm north of Sault Ste. Marie became operational. The green energy project is a partnership between BluEarth Renewables and Batchewana First Nation. Able to generate enough electricity to power 15,000 homes, the initiative came about thanks to a number of organizations and individuals working together. To document the project and unique partnerships that made it possible, BluEarth Renewables published a video earlier this month. The segment features interviews with representatives from groups involved with the Bow Lake Wind Farm, including the SSMEDC. During the interview with CEO Tom Dodds, he speaks of the economic benefits the project will have on the region. The video is available online at www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ar8TRV7hccg&feature=youtu.be.

December 18, 2015

  • More than 30,000 passengers rode the Agawa Canyon Tour Train in 2015, which was the best season since 2007. Earlier this year, following a partnership agreement, Tourism Sault Ste. Marie assumed all marketing responsibilities from the attraction's owner, CN. A focus was shifted to digital and television campaigns in strategic markets in Ontario and the U.S. With this concerted effort, coupled with more Americans getting passports, 2015 was very encouraging for the tour train. Another reason for this year's success is that Tourism Sault Ste. Marie and its partners recently developed a package that focuses on the Group of Seven. The visitor offering includes a stop at the Art Gallery of Algoma to view original paintings and a ride to Agawa Canyon to see sites made famous by the Canadian artists. The Group of Seven package attracted 15 motor coach tour buses.
  • On Wednesday, airport staff, Board members, air carriers and partners gathered to announce that, for the first time since forming in 1998, the Airport Development Corporation processed 200,000 passengers in a 12-month period. Dan Hollingsworth, the SSMEDC's Executive Director of Business Development, was one of several speakers at the event. He spoke of the many successful initiatives the SSMEDC and airport undertook over the years. In 2007, they attracted JD Aero, an aircraft maintenance and overhaul company. In 2008, they landed Sunwing Airlines. In 2011, they attracted Porter Airlines. In 2015, they secured $1 million from the Province to undertake an airport expansion project. And, a couple months ago, they formed a strategic partnership to develop the airport site with additional industrial and commercial components.
  • A feature movie is being shot in Sault Ste. Marie this month. The Void was originally scheduled to be filmed this past summer but was rescheduled to the fall. Set in an isolated hospital, the horror movie has six local locations of filming, with the principal settings being the former Sir James Dunn high school and General Hospital sites. When a movie production comes to the community, the SSMEDC team provides assistance to the visiting crew and helps the production guide through Municipal approval processes. Over the past several years, the a number of feature films have been shot in Sault Ste. Marie, including Citizen Gangster, Irvine Welsh's Ecstasy, Swearnet: The Movie, Breakout, Foxfire, and Remember. The latter film starred Academy Award-winning actors Christopher Plummer and Martin Landau.
  • SSMEDC Board member Donna Hilsinger was recently selected by the Ontario Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services to be a provincial appointee on the Sault Ste. Marie Police Services Board. Donna, who's General Manager of Algoma's Water Tower Inn & Suites, currently serves as volunteer secretary on the SSMEDC Board of Directors and volunteer President of the Algoma Fall Festival. She's also the past Chair of the Tourism Sault Ste. Marie Management Committee. Donna was sworn in on the Sault Ste. Marie Police Services Board on December 10 and will attend the Board's next regularly scheduled meeting on January 28. A longtime community leader and volunteer, she was the recipient of the Paul Dalseg Award from the Sault Ste. Marie Chamber of Commerce last month.

December 11, 2015

  • The future looks bright for Jeff Greco, owner and operator of Cavera Inc. His full-service creative marketing agency recently moved into a larger facility at 875 Queen Street East. He also added two more marketing experts to his workforce. Jeff is a longtime client of the SSMEDC. In 2011, while studying for a computer science degree, he decided to try his hand at enterprise and enrolled in the SSMEDC-administered Summer Company young entrepreneur program, which provides mentoring and funding to assist students in operating a seasonal business. A few years later, when his firm was established, Jeff enrolled in Starter Company, another SSMEDC-administered youth enterprise program that provides enhanced training and potential access to funding to help businesses grow. "The SSMEDC has been a big part of where my business is today," said Jeff.
  • On Wednesday, members of the Tourism Sault Ste. Marie team attended the kickoff for the 2016 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge. Held at the Delta Sault Ste. Marie Waterfront Inn, the event brought together tournament organizers with sponsors and potential sponsors. The evening was designed to promote the marketing opportunities available to area businesses. Scheduled next fall in the Sault, the 2016 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge was bid on and secured by Tourism Sault Ste. Marie, in partnership with the City of Sault Ste. Marie. The tournament is expected to generate an economic impact for the host community of several million dollars. Meanwhile, in an effort to attract as many out-of-town fans as possible, Tourism Sault Ste. Marie is now offering tickets and accommodation packages on its online reservation system.
  • The Centre for Social Justice and Good Works held its grand opening Tuesday night. Located on the main floor of the former convent behind Precious Blood Cathedral, the non-profit organization was formed to identify and address the needs of the community. The group is currently working on two key projects: a mentorship program for Ontario Works recipients who want to start businesses and a leadership skills development series for young people. For the entrepreneurship initiative, the centre partnered with the SSMEDC. The Corporation's Business Development team will provide training and business plan assistance for program participants. The Centre for Social Justice and Good Works was spearheaded by retired lawyer Frank Sarlo, former school chaplain Mary Anne Amadio, Rev. Hamish Currie, and businessman Joe Ruscio.
  • The SSMEDC held its open house event this past Wednesday afternoon. Held at the Corporation's office on the first level of the Civic Centre, the annual forum brings together SSMEDC staff, members of the Board of Directors and other volunteer committee representatives with clients, community leaders and individuals from partner organizations. The networking event provides an opportunity for the SSMEDC team to meet with its clients and partners and to thank them for their continued support. More than 100 guests from various businesses and organizations throughout Sault Ste. Marie - Ontario and Michigan - attended the Corporation's 2015 open house forum.

December 4, 2015

  • The community has been selected to host the 2016 Ontario University Athletics (OUA) Wrestling Championship. Taking place this February at Algoma University's newly-renovated George Leach Centre, the event will attract the sport's top talent from across the province and inject a significant amount of visitor spending into the local economy. The 2016 OUA Wrestling Championship was secured by Algoma University, with assistance from Tourism Sault Ste. Marie. The two organizations have worked together to bid on or host a number of past tournaments, including the 2011 Ontario Colleges Athletics Association Basketball Championships and 2013 Ontario Basketball Association Provincial Championships. Working with community partners to bid on or secure major events that draw visitors is one of Tourism Sault Ste. Marie's main activities.
  • This week, members of the SSMEDC's Business Development team met with representatives from a national financial services company that's looking to establish a presence in Northern Ontario. Sault Ste. Marie is among the short list of cities that the company is interested in setting up shop in. During the meetings, SSMEDC staff presented information on the local economy and the community in general, along with its competitive advantages and quality-of-life benefits. Fielding these types of requests from external companies and investors is a frequent activity for the Corporation. Each year, the SSMEDC works with dozens of businesses and entrepreneurs. In many cases, the company or investor sets up a firm in Sault Ste. Marie. In some cases, they do not. So is the nature of economic development.
  • To help market the community's industrial and commercial properties, the SSMEDC is now formally engaging area realtors. The planned partnerships are designed to promote business opportunities to global investors while also providing external companies with an efficient method of tapping into local development prospects. The SSMEDC has been working with realtors for many years, and this initiative will help formalize the process and ensure it's more efficient and effective. Under the initiative, the SSMEDC will soon be featuring enhanced listings of commercial and industrial properties on its website. As well, when an external investor contacts the SSMEDC about a real estate opportunity, the lead will be given to qualified realtors on a rotating basis. To take part in this initiative, realtors must apply by December 18.
  • Northern Ontario's most modern sports and entertainment complex is hosting a National Hockey League pre-season game next season. The Carolina Hurricanes will play the Buffalo Sabres at the Essar Centre on October 5, 2016. This event was acquired by the City of Sault Ste. Marie - in particular, its Community Services Department. Though not directly involved with securing the exhibition game, Tourism Sault Ste. Marie will soon be working with its Municipal partner at marketing and promoting the event. Specifically, Tourism Sault Ste. Marie will offer ticket and accommodation packages on its online reservation system. The first of its kind in Northern Ontario, the web-based portal allows travellers to book their hotel, entertainment and attractions with the simple click of a mouse.