Weekly Activity Reports - January 2016

January 29, 2016

  • Arauco (formerly Flakeboard) is buying its melamine lamination building from the SSMEDC. To complete the transaction, the firm presented the Corporation with a framed loonie today. In the mid-1990s, the SSMEDC helped attract Flakeboard to the city. The firm produced fibreboard, some of which was transported to southern Ontario to be laminated and used for finished products. Seeing an opportunity, the SSMEDC formed a business case to have Flakeboard grow its operation and do the lamination here. With that, the Corporation approached the three levels of government, all of which supported the project. At that time, due to regulations, some funding agencies couldn't provide investments directly to the private sector. As such, the SSMEDC received a portion of the funds and had the lamination facility constructed. A rail spur was also built to enable the product to be efficiently transported to market. For the past decade, Arauco/Flakeboard has been making payments to the SSMEDC under a lease-to-own agreement. The final payment was recently made, which completed a very successful multi-year partnership. This is a prime example of the good things that can happen with some outside-the-box thinking and teamwork.
  • On Thursday, the SSMEDC signed a formal agreement with the District of Sault Ste. Marie Social Services Administration Board and Community Development Corporation. The goal of the partnership is to generate business startups and create jobs. The three agencies each offer employment and business support programs to their clients. Under the agreement, they'll be presenting streamlined access to these services through cross-promotion. The idea for a formal partnership began last year, when the SSMEDC assisted an entrepreneur in starting a business using a micro-loan from the CDC. The individual, artist Darren Emond, found success in his venture and even went on to draw the latest comic book for the heavy metal band Iron Maiden. With this feat, the three agencies entered into a formal partnership with the goal of repeating this success story.
  • A new Municipal flag was unveiled to - and supported by - City Council this week. Chaired by Councillor Matthew Shoemaker, the committee tasked with identifying a new flag also included Councillors Susan Myers and Judy Hupponen, along with Deputy City Clerk Rachel Tyczinski. With over 30 years of marketing experience, Ian McMillan, Executive Director of Tourism Sault Ste. Marie, was also part of the group. The committee sought a viable alternative to the existing City flag. They looked for a more eye-catching and representative design. As a starting point, the group went to the Naturally Gifted logo, which has been around for years. With that, they tasked City Sign Shop Manager Kelly Buller with coming up with a layout. He provided a number of options, with the one presented to Council being the committee's unanimous choice.
  • Following a competitive hiring and recruitment process, the SSMEDC is pleased to welcome a new member to its staff team. Donica Gouchie is the Executive Assistant to the Chief Executive Officer. She began her position this week. The role is responsible for providing confidential executive level administrative support to the SSMEDC's Chief Executive Officer. Donica has a wealth of experience, having worked in similar roles with Algoma University, Sault Area Hospital and the Health Informatics Institute. Human resources matters, including recruitment, orientation, and health and safety, are undertaken by the SSMEDC's Corporate Services division. Last year, the division facilitated the recruitment and orientation of 15 individuals, including employees, summer students and volunteer Board members.

January 22, 2016

  • Tourism Sault Ste. Marie recently finished compiling its 2015 results. Last year, the division generated 23,951 visitor days and $4.4 million in direct visitor spending. As part of its core activity, Tourism Sault Ste. Marie works to secure and support major conferences and sports tournaments that draw visitors. In 2015, 25 of these events took place, which attracted 5,745 visitors and led to 14,362 visitor days. The division also promotes and sells vacation packages online and direct to consumers. A total of 5,717 of these packages were sold in 2015, which was an increase of more than 1,500 from the previous year. Between 2010 and 2015, Tourism Sault Ste. Marie activity in attracting events and selling vacation packages generated 197,231 visitor days, $28.8 million in direct visitor spending, and significantly more dollars in indirect economic activity.
  • To help ensure the community's concerns are addressed in the upcoming Ontario Budget, Tom Dodds, CEO of the SSMEDC, presented yesterday to the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs. The committee is currently engaged in a pre-budget consultation process and seeking input from individuals and groups. Tom addressed a number of major concerns for the Sault, such as the current crisis in the steel industry, which is severely impacting the community's largest employer, Essar Steel Algoma. Another topic of discussion was the privatization of the province's lottery and gaming sector, which will also have a major impact on the community. The SSMEDC also took part in another discussion on the 2016 Ontario Budget today with the Honourable Mitzie Hunter, Associate Minister of Finance.
  • Traditionally, Tourism Sault Ste. Marie has focused its promotional efforts on strategic markets in surrounding states, including Michigan, Ohio, Indiana and Illinois. However, a concentration is also put on nearby Northern Ontario communities. This is especially important today, as the low loonie is causing many Canadian folks to prefer travelling a little closer to home. With this reality, Tourism Sault Ste. Marie is now working closely with Village Media. The news company owns Sootoday.com and also has a presence in North Bay, Timmins and Barrie. Village Media reporters write feature stories on tourism attractions in the Sault Ste. Marie area. The articles also appear on the Northern Ontario tourism portal, which gets a ton of web traffic from people all over the world. This initiative is made possible with support from Tourism Northern Ontario.
  • The SSMEDC is helping to facilitate a succession planning workshop next month. Taking place the morning of Friday, February 19 at Algoma's Water Tower Inn & Suites, the forum will provide guidance and information for business owners who are looking to retire. At the workshop, Ron Spadoni, a Chartered Accountant and Partner with KPMG, will give a keynote presentation on business succession planning. As well, Jonathan Coulman, Executive Director of the Algoma Workforce Investment Corporation (AWiC), will present on the aging demographics of the region. The workshop is being facilitated by the SSMEDC, Chamber of Commerce, Community Development Corporation, AWiC, Downtown Association (Queenstown BIA), and KPMG. To register, or for additional information, please visit http://ssmsuccessionplanning.eventbrite.ca.

January 15, 2016

  • Last summer, the Pearl Mist cruise ship docked on the Sault Ste. Marie waterfront several times and brought well over 1,000 visitors. To help ensure this and other luxury vessels continue to come here, Ian McMillan, Executive Director of Tourism Sault Ste. Marie, attended the annual meeting of the Great Lakes Cruise Coalition this week. Consisting of representatives from various communities on the Great Lakes, the agency works to attract and retain cruise ships to the region. Ian has been on the organization's Board of Directors for several years and is also the past Chair of Cruise Ontario. Thanks to the efforts of the Great Lakes Cruise Coalition, the Pearl Mist is set to dock in Sault Ste. Marie again this summer and bring roughly 1,500 visitors. The organization is currently working to secure other luxury vessels for next summer as well.
  • The SSMEDC issued a Request for Proposal (RFP) last week for professional services for the creation of enhanced business profiles. This project is a component of Invest Sault Ste. Marie, a three-year program being delivered by the Corporation to enhance the community's economic development capacity and performance in key sectors. The focus of the initiative is to develop a solid foundation towards creating opportunities for local business and enhance investment attraction programming. The RFP is available at www.sault-canada.com/en/aboutus/howtodobusinesswithssmedc.asp. Proposals are due January 22. Invest Sault Ste. Marie, which represents an incremental increase in the SSMEDC's activities, is being made possible with funding from FedNor - Industry Canada, the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund, and City Council's Economic Development Fund.
  • The SSMEDC uses its core Municipal investments to lever significant amounts of additional funds and resources from senior levels of government, the private sector and other sources to deliver programs and undertake projects for the community.  In fact, many of the SSMEDC's staff positions are funded by senior levels of government or partner agencies. For example, Tourism Sault Ste. Marie is now hiring a Sports Marketing Development Intern. Funded by the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation, the position is the result of a partnership between Tourism Sault Ste. Marie and the Soo Thunderbirds Junior A Hockey Club. The staffer will help attract and secure sports tournaments for the community. The deadline to apply is January 20. The job posting is available online at: www.sault-canada.com/en/aboutus/ssmedcjobs.asp.
  • An SSMEDC staffer, John Febbraro, has been appointed to the Board of Directors for the North East Local Health Integration Network (LHIN). The Crown Corporation is one the largest of 14 LHINs in Ontario and is responsible for planning, integrating and funding health care services for more than 565,000 people across a region that stretches approximately 400,000 square kilometers. John is Director of Business Development at the SSMEDC, where he works to support local business owners with their growth projects and attract external companies. In a January 14 news release, North East LHIN Board Chair Danielle Bélanger-Corbin remarked: "John brings a remarkable skill set that includes economic development, strategic planning, quality management, financial management, as well as an ability to develop and sustain partnerships."

January 8, 2016

  • In 2009, Paul Caputo was in college and looking for a summer job. With positions few and far between, he enrolled in the SSMEDC-administered Summer Company program, which provides mentoring and funds to assist students in starting a seasonal business. With this support, Paul established Green Grass Yard Care, which provided lawn cutting services. Today, the company looks very different. Along with landscaping, the firm now offers excavations, asphalt, grading, aggregate, drainage, clearing, and commercial snow removal and sanding. To reflect its growth, the business name was changed last week to PAC Construction Group Ltd. It employs three full-time, year-round staff and five seasonal staff. Paul spoke of the support he received from the SSMEDC in a Sootoday story published Wednesday: www.sootoday.com/content/news/details.asp?c=103598. To contact PAC Construction Group Ltd., call 705-255-4544.
  • Searchmont Resort opened today. With unusually warm weather for most of December, snow-making was not possible for a majority of the month. Given the circumstances, January 8 was the earliest possible opening date. On a plus note, the resort is offering a better overall experience for users in 2016. During the off-season, a number of major renovations took place. Facilitated by the SSMEDC, and made possible with investments from senior levels of government, the enhancements include upgrades to the ski lifts and improvements to the hill terrain, overhauls of the snow-making equipment, and restoration of the main groomer and the purchase of two newer groomers for heavier use. The SSMEDC bought Searchmont Resort in December 2014. The acquisition, expected to be short-term, was required to ensure the hill continued to operate.
  • What's a typical day like at the SSMEDC? For the Corporation's small business advisors, a normal day often involves pre-scheduled meetings with current and aspiring entrepreneurs to review their business plans, develop funding applications and provide general support. However, walk-in traffic is also common. In fact, each week, several prospective business owners and entrepreneurs come to the SSMEDC office to seek assistance. As one recent example, Sault-born author Mike Sauve, who recently had his second book published, stopped by Friday. The former Sault Star reporter, who has also written for the National Post and Variety, currently lives and works in Toronto. He was back in his hometown this week and was looking at some business opportunities here. The SSMEDC team provided him with some marketing ideas and general assistance.
  • A new staffer joined the Tourism Sault Ste. Marie team this week. Following a competitive process, Alicia Brown was hired as the division's Coordinator of Partnerships and Marketing. This is a one-year contract position to fill in for a maternity leave. The Coordinator of Partnerships and Marketing role is responsible for the cooperative development of brochures and website content, government and regional website development, administration of marketing partnerships with private sector companies, and the day-to-day operation of Tourism Sault Ste. Marie's online reservation system. Alicia has extensive experience in strategic branding, along with web and graphic design, having most recently worked at a full-service creative marketing agency in Thunder Bay.