Weekly Activity Reports - January 2015

January 30, 2015

  • This summer, a brand new cruise ship, Saint Laurent, will be visiting the Sault Ste. Marie waterfront. The 286-foot vessel contains 105 luxury cabins and can accommodate hundreds of passengers and crew. During its stop, visitors will have a chance to tour the community and, in turn, inject money into the local economy. Tourism Sault Ste. Marie, a division of the SSMEDC, helped secure the Sault stop on the ship's Great Lakes voyage. Ian McMillan, Executive Director of Tourism Sault Ste. Marie, is Past-Chair of Cruise Ontario and a current Board member of the Great Lakes Cruising Coalition. The organizations work to attract cruise ships to the Great Lakes.
  • The 2015 Summer Company season is now underway. Applications for the SSMEDC-administered young entrepreneur program are now being accepted. Funded by the Province of Ontario, Summer Company provides grants and mentoring for youth between the ages of 15 and 29, who are returning to school, to operate a seasonal business. Essentially, the program allows students to delve into the world of enterprise and, in many cases, leads to a lifetime of entrepreneurship. Last year, 18 area youth took part in Summer Company. Two local participants were even featured in the province-wide Summer Company Yearbook, available at: http://www.ontario.ca/business-and-economy/summer-company-yearbook. With limited space, anyone interested in the 2015 program can contact the Kendall Scott at 705-759-2616 or k.scott@ssmedc.ca.
  • The ACR Passenger Service Stakeholders Working Group, which includes representatives from the SSMEDC, is vying to keep the Sault-to-Hearst rail service in operation. The group sent a funding proposal to Transport Minister Lisa Raitt on December 19. This week, the Minister agreed to meet with stakeholders in the near future to discuss the proposal. Meanwhile, negotiations between CN and the third-party rail company that's expected to take over the ACR passenger service later this year are also moving forward. Though there's still a way to go, this process is progressing forward, which is a positive sign. As such, the Working Group remains cautiously optimistic and is appreciative of the region's Members of Parliament for their support.
  • The SSMEDC uses its core operating investment from the City to lever significant amounts of additional funds and resources from other sources. As one example, a number of the Corporation's staff positions are project-specific contract roles funded by senior levels of government or partner organizations. For instance, Jordan Sims recently joined the Tourism Sault Ste. Marie team as its Sport Tourism Intern. Funded by the Province of Ontario, the position is a partnership between Tourism Sault Ste. Marie and the Soo Thunderbirds Junior A Hockey Club. Jordan will be working with both organizations to secure and coordinate hockey tournaments and other sports events.

January 23, 2015

  • The SSMEDC, Searchmont Ski Association Inc. (SSAI) and Destination North have formed a unique partnership to enable Searchmont Resort to continue to operate on a financially-stable basis. The SSMEDC recently purchased the resort from SSAI. The transaction was required to help ensure the business remains open and continues to evolve as a four-season destination attraction. SSAI will continue to operate the resort and is now leasing the facility from the SSMEDC. Destination North, which is seeking to further develop a regional tourism and community attraction at the former St. Marys paper site, has partnered with the SSMEDC and SSAI to support the marketing, promotion and administration of the newly-restructured Searchmont Resort. The operation of the facility provides a significant community, recreational and economic benefit for Sault Ste. Marie and area. This partnership and acquisition were necessary to help ensure it continues to operate on a sustainable basis and is able to provide these benefits in the future.
  • With the Federal Government's one-year funding extension into the Algoma Central Railway passenger service set to expire March 31, stakeholders sent a follow-up letter to Transport Minister Lisa Raitt earlier this week. In it, the ACR Passenger Service Stakeholders Working Group reiterates the fact that time is of the essence and a response from Transport Canada - along with a meeting with the Minister or her staff - is needed immediately. There are a number of parties at the table working on a solution, including regional stakeholders, CN and a third-party rail company that's expected to take over the service later this year. The only piece missing from the puzzle is a response from Transport Canada. Chaired by City CAO Joe Fratesi, the Working Group represents a larger committee of concerned regional stakeholders, including members of the SSMEDC and Tourism Sault Ste. Marie.
  • Essar Steel Algoma, the Sault's largest employer, got some good news recently. Earlier today, Sault MP Bryan Hayes announced that 1,500 tons of steel plate from the local plant will be used in the construction of the first of six new Arctic Offshore Patrol Ships. Meanwhile, in other promising news for both Essar and the community, the company plans on hiring 200 workers in the spring and restart its No. 6 blast furnace. Essar Steel Algoma and the SSMEDC are longtime partners and continue to work on a variety of project together, the most recent being the development of the Port of Algoma.
  • Jim Dickmeyer, U.S. Consul General in Toronto, was in Sault Ste. Marie this week. While here, the diplomat met with members of the SSMEDC, senior City staff including CAO Joe Fratesi, Mayor Christian Provenzano and MP Bryan Hayes, along with representative from various businesses and organizations in the community, including Essar Steel Algoma, the Chamber of Commerce, Batchewana First Nation and the International Bridge Administration. Facilitated by the SSMEDC, the purpose of the U.S. Consul General's visit was to further build economic connections and solid relationships between Sault Ste. Marie and the U.S.

January 16, 2015

  • Last week, the Sault Ste. Marie Airport Development Corporation, the non-profit organization that operates the local airport, announced that 2014 was a record year in terms of passengers. A total of 195,080 people flew to or from the facility last year, which was an increase of 4.4% from 2013. The SSMEDC has been a longtime partner of the Airport Development Corporation. The two agencies worked together to land Porter Airlines here a few years back. The SSMEDC team is now represented on the Airport User Committee, a group that's charged with identifying opportunities to increase traffic and business opportunities at the airport.
  • A member of Tourism Sault Ste. Marie recently attended the American Bus Association Marketplace. The event sees tour operators from across the continent meet with potential host locations. Tourism Sault Ste. Marie, a division of the SSMEDC, was there to promote the area as a prime location for bus tour groups to stop. Potential package options discussed included a Group of Seven-related tour and the Agawa Canyon Train Tour. Tourism SSM, which works to draw visitors, has seen considerable success in tour bus attraction in recent years. By attending events like the American Bus Association Marketplace and making further industry connections, more success is likely.
  • The SSMEDC has expertise in developing funding applications and helping to create solid business plans for its clients. These skills come in handy when Sault Ste. Marie and area communities are looking to get projects off the ground or access investments. As one recent example, members of the SSMEDC team met with representatives from an area First Nation earlier today. The community is looking to establish an industrial park to support its entrepreneurs and companies. The purpose of the meeting was to develop the necessary business plans and funding applications that are needed to get the project off the ground. The documents are expected to be finalized in the coming months.
  • Next week, Sault Ste. Marie and the SSMEDC will be represented at the first annual Community Gaming Conference in Toronto. The event is designed to bring together individuals and organizations in the Canadian gaming industry to share ideas and forge partnerships. The SSMEDC is attending the forum to further boost the city's profile in the lottery and gaming industry. Essentially, the goal is to show the competitive industry advantages resident in Sault Ste. Marie. It's part of the SSMEDC's lottery and gaming retention strategy, which is designed to retain and grow the local sector in light of the transformation of the province's lottery and gaming industry.

January 12, 2015

  • Following an RFP process that saw three qualified rail companies bid to take over the Algoma Central Railway passenger service, stakeholders are now in direct negotiations with one of the firms. A letter of intent was signed last week, and a final operations agreement is expected in the near future. The ACR Passenger Service Stakeholders Working Group, which includes representatives from the SSMEDC, has been vying to find a third-party rail firm to operate the CN-owned Sault-to-Heart passenger train since the Government of Canada announced in early-2014 its intention of cutting its annual investment in the remote transportation service.
  • The ACR Passenger Service Stakeholders Working Group recently sent a funding proposal to the Federal Government. The request, which would cost Transport Canada considerably less than its financial support of the service in recent years, includes information from a third-party rail company that's expected to take over the service in 2015. Essentially, with a relatively limited investment, the Federal Government can keep this critical transportation line in operation. The Working Group, which includes representatives from the City of Sault Ste. Marie, SSMEDC and other stakeholders, hopes to hear back from the Government of Canada in the coming weeks.
  • Don Mitchell, President and Board Chair of the SSMEDC, was recently awarded a Medal of Merit from the City of Sault Ste. Marie. A dedicated volunteer for more than 43 years, he has served on numerous municipal, educational, and charitable boards and committees. In recognition of his volunteer service, Don is a past recipient of the Chamber of Commerce President's Award, the Paul Dalseg Community Achievement Award and the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal. He is known as passionate and outspoken, but it is his contagious optimism, exuberance and vision for the success of the Sault that fuels the fire of his tireless efforts on behalf of the community he loves.
  • Last week, a sales and sport marketing specialist joined Tourism Sault Ste. Marie. John Pucci was hired to fill the vacant position of Manager, Sport Tourism & Special Events within the SSMEDC division. He has extensive experience in the sports industry, including a position as General Manager of Hockey Northwestern Ontario, along with roles with the Ottawa Senators and Tampa Bay Lightning NHL clubs. More recently, John has held a sales management position with Labatt Breweries. This experience is a perfect fit for his new role with Tourism Sault Ste. Marie, which is responsible for working with community group and external organizations to secure major sports and other events, thereby attracting visitors to the city.