Weekly Activity Reports - July 2014

July 31, 2014

  • The proposed Small Business Incubator pilot project in downtown Sault Ste. Marie just made a giant leap forward. The SSMEDC has been leading this development initiative and has been successful at securing a $252,000 investment from FedNor, it was announced earlier this week. Another funding application, made to the Province's Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation, is pending, while the City of Sault Ste. Marie has also supported this initiative with a conditional $190,000 investment from its Economic Development Fund. If established, the Small Business Incubator would provide a space for budding entrepreneurs to operate their companies and would deliver a number of direct services, including coaching, mentoring and marketing assistance. The goal is to help owners survive through the often-difficult first few years of start-up. Pending the approval of the remaining funding requests, the next step in this initiative is to secure a downtown location.
  • An SSMEDC investment continues to pay dividends. In 2011, Sault Ste. Marie hosted the International Hap Ki Do Canadian Open, a martial arts event held at the Essar Centre that attracted hundreds of visitors. The SSMEDC's Tourism Sault Ste. Marie division, which assisted the organizers in bidding on and hosting the tournament, also supported the event by purchasing martial arts mats that were used for the matches. The goal behind the investment was that the sports equipment would also allow the community to host similar events in the future. One such event is happening next week. From Aug. 8 to 10, the community is hosting the Korean Martial Arts Masters Hall of Fame Ceremony. Taking place at the Delta Waterfront Inn, it will feature a number of components, including demonstrations and teaching seminars that require proper martial arts mats. In other words, the event, which will attract dozens of delegates from around the world, was made possible thanks to the SSMEDC's 2011 investment.
  • The SSMEDC is administering the Province's Starter Company program (not to be confused with Summer Company, which the SSMEDC also administers in the region). Starter Company provides business training, mentoring and potential access to funding for youth ages 18 to 29, who are not returning to school, to open a business. Three local entrepreneurs recently obtained funding under the program. Cavera Inc., a growing provider of creative and digital marketing solutions, received $5,000. Knight Legal Solutions, a paralegal law firm, received $5,000. And Jax & Hail Body Sugaring, a hair removal service that uses an all-natural product, received $3,750. All three businesses, along with others, are continuing through Starter Company. The goal of the year-long program is to help young entrepreneurs establish themselves and have their businesses become sustainable in the long term.
  • It's now the heart of the summer season of the Agawa Canyon Train Tour, the area's No. 1 visitor attraction. Similar to the past few years, the SSMEDC's Tourism Sault Ste. Marie division hired three summer students to work on the tour as Travel Councellors. The positions, partially funded by the Federal Government, interact with passengers and provide a more wholesome experience for riders, thereby increasing passenger levels. Speaking of the train tour, a few years ago, Tourism Sault Ste. Marie established an online reservation system, the first of its kind in Northern Ontario. The web-based portal allows travellers to book their trip to the Sault, including attractions and accommodations, with a simple click of a mouse. The train tour is one of the main packages booked, and the SSMEDC's finance staffer has been busy as of late processing the reservations.

July 25, 2014

  • The SSMEDC recently began working with Christy's Light Foundation, a local non-profit organization that provides support and mentoring for individuals suffering from eating disorders, along with their families. The foundation is looking to bolster its profile in the community and access funding to remain sustainable in the long term. For the past several weeks, SSMEDC staff has been assisting the organization in generating marketing opportunities and developing funding applications. More information on the foundation is available online at www.christyslight.com.
  • The community is now a step closer to developing a data centre. The SSMEDC, in partnership with the Sault Ste. Marie Innovation Centre, issued a request for proposal (RFP) last week to seek a proponent interested in establishing a data centre here. The completion of the facility, which would house computer systems and digital storage systems for local and global organizations, is an important component to advancing the local information technology sector. Sault Ste. Marie is home to a number of organizations with significant IT operations, including the OLG. The community is currently advancing its plans to develop the lottery and gaming sector, and the proposed data centre would also add further momentum to this initiative.
  • A local student, Brooke Adam, decided to try her hand at entrepreneurship and open a business this summer. Her firm, Herbified, grows and sells pesticide-free fresh herbs and utilizes environmentally-friendly pots made from recycled newspapers. Offering a unique variety, the business provides fresh herbs at a very reasonable price. To learn more, contact Brooke at 705-989-7146. The young entrepreneur is taking part in Summer Company. Funded by the Province of Ontario, the program provides grants and mentoring for students to operate their own seasonal business. Summer Company is administered in the Algoma region and Chapleau by the SSMEDC.
  • In December, 18 volunteer youth from Kenya and Tanzania are scheduled to visit the Sault as part of an educational exchange program related to the environment and energy. The organizing agency, Canada World Youth, is now seeking host families, along with environment-related businesses and organizations that can provide temporary work/learning opportunities. The initiative is designed to deliver worthwhile educational opportunities for the participants, who can bring what they learn back to their home countries. Since the program will also help promote Sault Ste. Marie and its green energy sector, the SSMEDC is assisting Canada World Youth in planning and delivering this initiative. To learn more, including host family opportunities, visit www.canadaworldyouth.org.

July 18, 2014

  • This Thursday will see the grand opening of the recently-built Heritage Discovery Centre. The $4-million facility, housed at the Ermatinger-Cleargue National Historic Site, converts the location into a year-round attraction. The City-run centre, which will help draw visitors, features a number of components, including a new exhibition gallery, multimedia theatre and a War of 1812 gallery. Funding for this downtown initiative came from all three levels of government. Throughout the planning and development process, the SSMEDC's Tourism Sault Ste. Marie division assisted City staff in developing funding applications to senior levels of government.
  • Looking to add a little flair to your party? McShane McKenna is here to help. The young entrepreneur recently opened a business, The Balloon Guy, in Sault Ste. Marie. The company provides entertainment services for all occasions, including birthdays and community/corporate events. McShane, a university student, creates balloons that take the form of animals, hats and other figures. He is taking part in 2014 Summer Company. The SSMEDC-administered program, funded by the Province, provides grants and mentoring to help youth operate their own seasonal business. To contact McShane, call 705-255-4217.
  • Last week, the SSMEDC's Tourism Sault Ste. Marie division hosted a familiarization (FAM) tour for a travel blogger and photographer from Toronto. The visiting writer came here to develop tourism-related stories on the community, Agawa Canyon Tour Train and Errington's Wilderness Island Resort up the ACR line. Over the past few years, Tourism Sault Ste. Marie has been quite successful in attracting and hosting visiting media from around the world, and a number of FAM tours are already scheduled for the coming months. The goal of these tours in to generate unpaid media coverage for area tourism attractions and take advantage of those marketing opportunities, thereby increasing visitation levels to Sault Ste. Marie.
  • From November 4 to 6, Sault Ste. Marie is hosting an Energy Opportunities Conference. The event, which will attract industry leaders from around the world, aims to promote the local energy sector, generate business opportunities, and discuss and debate solutions for the energy-related challenges. Last night, City Council voted to support this initiative with a $25,000 investment from the Municipality's Economic Development Fund. The Energy Opportunities Conference is being hosted by the Sault Ste. Marie Innovation Centre. The SSMEDC is supporting the event with planning, marketing and other assistance.

July 11, 2014

  • The local economy is poised for growth over the next couple of years. That's according to a recent report from the Conference Board of Canada, the foremost independent, not-for-profit, applied research organization in the country. Particularly promising is that employment levels are on the rise. In 2012, 34,000 individuals participated in the local workforce. In 2013, that number grew to 37,000. Though these numbers are down from the 40,000-strong workforce in 2008, before the global recession hit, the trend is positive. Also positive is that gross domestic product in Sault Ste. Marie is expected to grow by 1.1% over 2014-15.
  • Further economic and business cooperation between the Twin Saults is on the horizon thanks to a formal agreement that will be signed tomorrow by the Sault Ste. Marie Economic Development Corporations of Ontario and Michigan. The MOU will establish the framework for a number of shared projects, along with the creation of a Joint International Relations and Economic Growth Committee. For instance, if an American company is looking to set up a location north of the border, or if a Canadian company is looking to expand into the U.S., the two SSMEDCs would work together to attract the firm. Ultimately, the partnership is designed to stimulate economic growth and create jobs in the region.
  • With summer student jobs sometimes few and far between, Joshua McEwen has taken matters into his own hands. He started a business, Mobile Computer Repairs Services (MCRS), which provides small-scale computer repair, restoration and diagnostics. His company is unique, in that its staff will come right to your door, instead of you having to go to them. Services include system clean-ups (clearing old directories and dirt/dust from inside the computer), and system tune-ups. Joshua is a participant in Summer Company, an SSMEDC-administered program that provides grants and mentoring for students to operate their own seasonal business. To contact him, call 705-975-3551.
  • Members of the SSMEDC team, along with other community stakeholders such as the Chamber of Commerce, FedNor and Startup Sault, recently met with the Ontario Securities Commission. The Provincial Government is looking at changing its regulations around how certain Canadian companies can access funding. More specifically, the OSC is looking at ways to encourage capital raising for start-ups and small and medium-sized enterprises, including the introduction of crowdfunding. At the meeting, local stakeholders agreed that Sault Ste. Marie should consider establishing an OSC Crowdfunding Portal, which would provide local companies another opportunity to access alternative sources of capital for start-up and growth initiatives.