Weekly Activity Reports - July 2015

July 31, 2015

  • Another feature movie will begin shooting in the Sault next week. The Void is scheduled to start filming August 3 and is expected to wrap up at the end of the month. Set in an isolated hospital, the horror movie is being produced by Cave Painting Pictures Inc. There are six local locations of filming, with the principal sites being the former Sir James Dunn high school and General Hospital. When a movie production comes to town, the SSMEDC provides assistance to the visiting crew and helps the production guide through the Municipal approval process. Over the past few years, the a number of feature films have been shot here, including Irvine Welsh's Ecstasy, Citizen Gangster, Breakout, Foxfire, and Remember. The latter, starring Christopher Plummer and Martin Landau, is set to premiere at the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival in September.
  • In its efforts to promote the region's number one travel generator, Tourism Sault Ste. Marie now has another gadget in its tool belt. The SSMEDC division recently commissioned a marketing video centred around the Agawa Canyon Tour Train, an attraction that takes passengers on a one-day wilderness excursion 114 miles north of Sault Ste. Marie. The promotional video was shot by Village Electric - largely with overhead drone cameras - and produced by Lucidia. The clip is currently airing as television advertisements in strategic markets throughout southern Ontario and Michigan. It's also being used on Tourism Sault Ste. Marie's social media platforms and website. Meanwhile, the Agawa Canyon Tour Train is running full steam ahead for the entire 2015 season, which is set to end October 12.
  • Last week, the SSMEDC worked with Shaw TV on shooting and producing a video segment on Samantha Luck, owner of Sam Luck House & Cottage Portraits, who's taking part in the Summer Company program. The five-minute clip, which is airing on Channel 10 this week and can also be found online, highlights the value of the SSMEDC-administered young entrepreneur program. The segment is available at www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Pp4vFyaun8. The SSMEDC has a partnership with Shaw TV, with several segments related to the Corporation aired each year. This is one of many communications methods used by the SSMEDC. This activity promotes programs and services while also informing the public and funding partners of SSMEDC activity, which ultimately provides accountability for investments made in the organization.
  • A member of the SSMEDC team recently joined a major provincial tourism group. Ian McMillan, Executive Director of Tourism Sault Ste. Marie, has been elected to the Board of Directors for the Tourism Industry Association of Ontario. McMillan was one of 13 representatives from across the province to be elected to a two-year term on the organization's Board. The goal of the Tourism Industry Association of Ontario is to position the province's tourism industry for growth and prosperity. The advocacy group represents some 150,000 businesses and agencies throughout the province. McMillan has been with the SSMEDC's Tourism Sault Ste. Marie division since 2001 and has more than 35 years of tourism marketing experience.

July 24, 2015

  • A world famous Chinese wildlife photographer and conservationist visited the Sault area this week. Xi Zhinong and two of his students came here to document their experience through the Canadian wilderness. They visited the Art Gallery of Algoma to learn about the Group of Seven and checked out the Bushplane Museum to learn about wildlife protection in Canada. The visitors also went on the Agawa Canyon Tour Train and took a float plane to the Chapleau Game Reserve. While taking photos of their travels, the trip was captured by a documentary film crew, which will produce and air the film in China in the coming months. The area visit was facilitated by Tourism Sault Ste. Marie, a division of the SSMEDC, in conjunction with the Ontario Tourism Marketing Partnership Corporation and Destination Canada. Over the past several years, Tourism Sault Ste. Marie has been working to grow the international travel market, particularly in Asia.
  • This week, the SSMEDC met with four companies as part of its Business Retention and Expansion (BR&E) outreach efforts. The initiative assists firms in their expansion plans and helps them become more competitive, which creates or retains jobs. To support growth projects and develop funding applications to senior levels of government, the SSMEDC has made 24 initial site visits, along with 33 subsequent visits, to local companies in 2015. Five funding applications have been approved, and three are under development. To assist businesses with their growth projects, the SSMEDC works with FedNor, the NOHFC, Community Development Corporation and BDC. Last year, under its BR&E program, the SSMEDC assisted 13 companies in their expansion plans, which created or retained 420 jobs and led to $22 million in investments. To take advantage of the BR&E program, contact John Febbraro or Dan Hollingsworth at 705-759-5432.
  • Tourism Sault Ste. Marie's partnership with South Korean travel operators continues to bear sizeable fruit. Several years back, the SSMEDC division began an initiative to attract group tours from the east Asian country. The itinerary has the travellers fly to Chicago, then board a bus north to Sault Ste. Marie. While here, they visit area attractions, including a full-day ride on the Agawa Canyon Tour Train, which is the region's number one travel generator. In 2012, when the partnership began, around 60 South Korean visitors came here. In 2013 and 2014, that number increased to 150 and 300 respectively. This year, through the Tourism Sault Ste. Marie partnership, more than 500 visitors from South Korea are expected to come here. It's important to note that these travellers are generally high-end spenders who inject a significant amount of capital into the local economy.
  • The website for the SSMEDC's Millworks initiative recently went live. Available at www.themillworks.ca, the site contains information on the Corporation's Enterprise Services facility, which is currently under construction in the Machine Shop at Mill Square. When operational later this summer, the complex will host a Small Business Incubator for entrepreneurs to operate their budding companies and will provide its clients with a number of direct services, including coaching, mentoring and marketing assistance. Located at the former St. Marys Paper property, Millworks will also be home to the SSMEDC's Enterprise Services programs, including Starter Company and Summer Company. Meanwhile, the Millworks website was designed and produced internally by the Corporation's staff, making the development and maintenance of the online tool very cost effective.

July 17, 2015

  • The SSMEDC administers Summer Company in the city and region. The program offers grants and mentoring for students to operate their own business. Essentially, it teaches youth the ins and outs of entrepreneurship while helping to generate employment opportunities that allow more area residents to return or remain in their hometown during the summer months. The 2015 participants include: Wood Runner, Superior Shine Auto Detailing, Shine Designs, Sonke Deck & Fence Maintenance, Sam Luck House & Cottage Portraits, O'Wooden Furniture, Makea Design Co., Levi's Wood 4 Sale, Get Laid Interlocking Repair, Fogg Bros. Landscaping, Colin's Lawn Care Services, and Brett's Superior Home Maintenance. For contact information and other details, click here.
  • Carrying more than 200 passengers, the cruise ship Pearl Mist (formerly named Columbus) was set to dock here three times this summer. The bad news is that this is no longer happening. The good news: instead of three times, the luxury vessel is now scheduled to stop here six times. This will ultimately bring a total of around 1,200 visitors here, folks who typically have deep pockets and spend a considerable amount of money in the places they stay. The local waterfront has seen its fair share of moored cruise ships these past few summers. Part of the reason is because Ian McMillan, Executive Director of the SSMEDC's Tourism Sault Ste. Marie division, is the former Chair of Cruise Ontario and a current member of the Great Lakes Cruising Coalition. The goal of both organizations is to work with cruise liners and tourist operators to attract luxury vessels to the region.
  • This week, Tourism Sault Ste. Marie hosted a familiarization (FAM) tour for visiting executives from Festivals and Events Ontario. The organization is looking for a place to host an upcoming annual general conference, and its brass came here to conduct site visits at area attractions and accommodation facilities. Tourism Sault Ste. Marie, a division of the SSMEDC, in partnership with Destination North, is looking to bid to host the Festivals and Events Ontario conference in either 2017 or 2018. If successful, the event would bring more than 300 industry representatives here from across the province. Bidding on major events that draw visitors is a main activity of Tourism Sault Ste. Marie. In 2014, the organization's work in attracting and supporting conferences and sports tournaments generated 13,866 visitor days, $2.08 million in direct visitor spending, and millions more in indirect and induced economic activity.
  • Over the past week, the SSMEDC's Corporate Services division developed and distributed four press releases to media outlets throughout the city and region. All generated news coverage. During that same period, the Corporation also fielded a number of requests for media interviews that led to SSMEDC-related stories appearing in all mediums: online, print, radio and television. A main goal of this type of activity is to keep area citizens and partners informed of the Corporation's activity, thus demonstrating accountability for the public and private sector investments made into the SSMEDC. During the past week, some of the media outlets that covered stories related to the Corporation include: CBC/Radio-Canada, The Sault Star, Sootoday, 104.3 FM Sault, Saultonline, CTV Northern Ontario, Northern Hoot, Wawa-News, Northern Ontario Business, and 100.5 FM Sault.

July 10, 2015

  • After recovering from the 2008 global recession reasonably well, the Sault's economy is poised for further growth. Local GDP is expected to rise by 1.4% in 2015 and 1.4% in 2016. These are the findings from a recently-released report from the Conference Board of Canada. Between 2010 and 2014, the city's GDP increased by an average of 0.9%. The uptick for 2015-16 is being attributed to growth in personal services, wholesale and retail trade, and transportation and warehousing. Though also citing some economic challenges, the report reveals promise in the knowledge-based IT sector, as the community looks to establish a Data Centre while lottery and gaming agencies work to grow their local operations. The report was commissioned by the SSMEDC in order to have a qualified, third-party economic analysis of Sault Ste. Marie.
  • Over the past several weeks, Tourism Sault Ste. Marie and its industry partners have been ramping up an aggressive marketing plan for the Agawa Canyon Train Tour. The campaign is taking place in strategic areas throughout Ontario and the U.S. The Train Tour remains the region's number one travel generator and, as such, stakeholders look forward to another successful season. The tourist attraction, which takes passengers on a one-day wilderness excursion 114 miles north of the Sault, recently underwent an $11-million overhaul and now boasts upgraded coaches and onboard audio/video technology. The enhancement project was spearheaded by Tourism Sault Ste. Marie, a division of the SSMEDC. It should be noted that the Tour Train is in no way impacted by this week's announcement of a ceasing of the Sault-to-Hearst passenger rail service.
  • The SSMEDC is in the process of finalizing its Millworks small business incubator in the Machine Shop at Mill Square. As such, a member of the Corporation's Enterprise Services team now has a temporary, part-time office at the site. Having a presence there makes it easy to oversee the development and meet with prospective tenants to give them tours of the complex. Once complete, the SSMEDC's Enterprise Services staff, which provides support for area entrepreneurs to open and grow small businesses, will be located at Millworks. Located at the former St. Marys Paper site, the small business incubator 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 owners in developing a sustainable, long term operation.
  • Here are a couple blasts from the past. In 2012, Tourism Sault Ste. Marie assisted an area organizing committee in coordinating the inaugural Ride For Sight, a charity motorcycle event that raises money for the Foundation Fighting Blindness while also attracting visitors. Around that same time, the SSMEDC division assisted the City of Sault Ste. Marie in securing funding from senior levels of government to build the Heritage Discovery Centre at the Ermatinger-Clergue National Historic Site. Both initiatives continue to generate significant results. This weekend, the fourth-annual Ride For Sight is taking place. And on Wednesday, at the meeting of the local Historic Sites Board, it was revealed that, in large part to the Heritage Discovery Centre, visitations to the Ermatinger-Clergue site are around 10,000 per year, the highest in many, many years.

July 3, 2015

  • Tourism Sault Ste. Marie, a division of the SSMEDC, recently entered into a strategic partnership with Porter Airlines. The Toronto-based air carrier will be featuring easily-purchased two-and-three-night getaways that focus on Sault area attractions, such as the Agawa Canyon Train Tour and Canadian Bushplane Heritage Centre. The packages will be promoted through the company's web portal, online route map, social media, sales landing page and other marketing channels. For the consumer, it will highlight Porter's air fares and show how easy it is to get from downtown Toronto to Sault Ste. Marie in just over an hour. The airline, which is based out of Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport, has the same partnership with all the Northern Ontario communities it serves, including Sudbury, Timmins and Thunder Bay. The cooperation agreement is made possible by the Ontario Tourism Marketing Partnership Corporation.
  • A local young entrepreneur and SSMEDC client is trekking ahead with a new business. James Mergaert recently started ThinkSpace Home Renovations. The firm specializes in designs, construction and maintenance, and is available to support its customers at every stage of their home renovation project. Before opening his business, James first enrolled in Starter Company. The youth entrepreneurship program is administered in the region by the SSMEDC's Business Development team. Funded by the Ontario Ministry of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure, Starter Company provides mentoring, training and potential access to funding for youth between the ages of 18 and 29, who are not returning to school, to start or grow a business. ThinkSpace Home Renovations is one of several area firms to successfully make its way through Starter Company. The program was unveiled by the Province of Ontario last year.
  • The Group of Seven gained international fame by painting landscapes in the Algoma region in the 1920s and 30s. Today, Tourism Sault Ste. Marie is capitalizing on this brand and using it to attract visitors. A two-day excursion developed by the SSMEDC division is now being offered. It includes stops at the Art Gallery of Algoma, Ermatinger-Cleargue National Historic Site and Agawa Canyon. On the tour, visitors view original Group of Seven works and locations, learn about the painters, and even take part in a tutorial by a professional artist. Over the past several months, Tourism Sault Ste. Marie and its partners have been busy promoting the Group of Seven excursion to group travel companies around the world. With this effort, eight tours with between 30 and 40 visitors each are booked this summer and spring, essentially selling out the inaugural 2015 season. The first group tour experienced this expedition last week.
  • Ever have a dream within a dream? This summary is sort of like that. The SSMEDC's Weekly Activity Report, which you are currently reading, is now reaching a much larger audience. To offer citizens a further look into its daily activity, the Corporation is publishing and archiving the reports on its website. The initiative is designed to add another level of accountability for investments made in the SSMEDC. Available online here, the reports are one of many communications methods used by the Corporation that are meant to keep citizens informed of its activity while also promoting its programs and services. Other initiatives include a Twitter page, newsletters, Shaw TV and other video segments; Annual Reports; routine press releases and web stories, MOU Reports to City Council, public information sessions, and stories found in various print and online sources.