Weekly Activity Reports - October 2014

October 31, 2014

  • This week, the Essar Centre is home to Cirque Du Soleil Dralion, a high-flying production that incorporates Asian and Western circus performance styles. As it has with past concerts and special events at the sports and entertainment complex, Tourism Sault Ste. Marie offers visitors an opportunity to book their trip here, including event tickets and accommodations, on its Online Reservation System. The web-based portal also allows travellers to book attraction visits such as the Agawa Canyon Train Tour and Bushplane Heritage Centre. Unveiled a few years back, the web-based portal was established by the SSMEDC division to make it easier to book a trip to the Sault and thus increase visitation levels to the community.
  • Today, Tom Dodds, Chief Executive Officer of the SSMEDC, was presented with the 2014 Award of Excellence from the Algoma Kinniwabi Travel Association (Algoma Country). The honour was in recognition for Tom's work on the ACR Passenger Service Working Group, which is vying to keep the Sault-to-Heart transportation link operating. The Working Group is currently engaging with private sector railway operators that are interested in taking over the passenger service, which is used by tourists, area cottagers and others. Algoma Country is a not-for-profit tourism industry organization that supports growth in the regional tourism sector through partnerships, product development, research, education and marketing.
  • The SSMEDC is currently working to establish a Small Business Incubator in the downtown core of the city. The Corporation hopes to have a site selected in the near future. To ensure the success of the pilot project, Andrew Ross, the SSMEDC's General Manager of Enterprise Services, attended the annual conference for the Canadian Association of Business Incubators this week. The event provides learning and networking opportunities. While there, Andrew also had a chance to promote Sault Ste. Marie when he led an expert panel discussion on the importance of small business support structures in both rural and urban areas.
  • The SSMEDC welcomed a new staffer this month. Alana Kenopic joined the Tourism Sault Ste. Marie team as its Coordinator of Meetings & Conventions. The position is responsible for working with local and external organizations to attract events and, in turn, draw visitors to the community. Alana is filling in for an SSMEDC staffer who is on-leave for the next year. Having recently completed contracts at Sault College, where she was responsible for managing and overseeing a $6 million capital fundraising campaign, Alana has proven experience in direct sales. She also has a strong appreciation for the Sault's capacity to host conventions and meetings, having Co-Chaired the 2013 Ontario Association of Crime Stoppers Provincial Conference.

October 24, 2014

  • Last week, a batch of three new participants took part in Starter Company training sessions. The SSMEDC-administered program provides mentoring, education and potential access to funding to help young entrepreneurs open or enhance a business. Earlier this year, a number of SSMEDC small business clients successfully completed the program. Three of them received funding to help make their firms more sustainable. Facilitated in the Algoma region and Chapleau by the SSMEDC, Starter Company is funded by the Province of Ontario.
  • Home to Olympic champion curlers Team Jacobs, along with the state-of-the-art Essar Centre, is Sault Ste. Marie a prime location for the 2017 Tim Hortons Brier? The SSMEDC, in partnership with the City of Sault Ste. Marie and Soo Curlers Association, are now exploring the possibility of bidding on the renowned national sports event. Officials are evaluating matters like logistics and the level of support needed to successfully host the Brier. Once the evaluation stage is complete, the three organizations will determine whether or not to formally bid on the event in the spring.
  • On Thursday, the Sault Ste. Marie Chamber of Commerce held its 125 Annual General Meeting, in conjunction with its 2014 Business Awards. The awards recognize some of the best and brightest businesses, organizations and individuals in the community. As it has in previous years, the SSMEDC, which is a longtime partner of the Chamber of Commerce, sponsored and presented the 2014 Environment Award. This year's winner was the Sault Ste. Marie Innovation Centre. For the full list of award winners, visit www.ssmcoc.com.
  • Last week, the SSMEDC co-hosted a Bi-National Twin Sault's Regional Collaborative Conference at Lake Superior State University with several economic development groups from Michigan. The event was designed to help foster business-to-business relationships between companies on both sides of the border. Two local firms, Heliene Inc. and BioForest Technologies Inc., led a business panel discussion on successful entrepreneurship practices. Supporting such cross-border partnerships has been a key activity for the SSMEDC, which works with local companies to increase their exporting opportunities and help grow their markets.

October 17, 2014

  • In the near future, instead of household garbage ending up at the landfill, it will be diverted to a leading-edge facility and converted into clean energy. That's the plan Elementa Group is now finalizing. The company, which has been developing its technology at a pilot plant in Sault Ste. Marie for some time, recently purchased land to house its full-scale facility. The property, located on Base Line next to Flakeboard Company, was bought from the City of Sault Ste. Marie. Elementa has also inked power purchase agreement with the Province of Ontario. The company is a longtime client of the SSMEDC. Once operational, its facility will employ between 25 and 30 full-time staff and process most of the household trash in the city, thereby significantly increasing the life expectancy of the landfill.
  • The ACR Passenger Service Working Group is vying to keep the passenger rail line between the Sault and Hearst in operation. The Working Group recently released a Request for Expressions of Interest (EOI) to rail companies and other organizations that might be interested in running the service. CN Rail, which owns the line, issued a separate EOI for its Agawa Canyon Train Tour. Four rail companies submitted expressions for both EOIs. Last week, the SSMEDC, along with other members of the ACR Passenger Service Working Group, met with three of the firms to provide them a more thorough overview of the rail opportunities and the Algoma region in general. The Working Group, Chaired by City CAO Joe Fratesi, represents a larger committee of concerned stakeholders who depend on the service.
  • This summer, in an effort to attract lottery and gaming businesses to Sault Ste. Marie, the SSMEDC attended the 2014 Canadian Gaming Summit in Vancouver. The event attracted more than 1,400 people from hundreds of companies and organizations around the world. Representatives from the SSMEDC met with several dozen of these individuals to promote lottery and gaming opportunities in the Sault. Earlier this week, as a follow up to the meetings in Vancouver, two of those companies visited Sault Ste. Marie to further discuss business prospects here. One was an information technology firm that provides support services to the gaming industry. The other is a software company looking to enter the lottery and gaming sector. Several other businesses have committed to visiting the Sault in the coming weeks.
  • Tourism Sault Ste. Marie is seeking to fill the position of Manager, Sports Tourism & Special Events. The role within the SSMEDC is responsible for coordinating, delivering and administrating projects to attract special events and sports tourism business. Between 2008 and 2013, Tourism Sault Ste. Marie activity helped attract 369 events, which drew 60,962 delegates and led to $31.6 million in direct visitor spending. The forthcoming Manager, Sport Tourism & Special Events will be responsible for building on this success. A full job summary is available at www.sault-canada.com/en/aboutus/ssmedcjobs.asp. The deadline to apply is October 24. Meanwhile, the process of screening and hiring personnel, along with other human resources matters, is coordinated by the Corporate Services division of the SSMEDC.

October 10, 2014

  • Hailing from Sault Ste. Marie, television personality Tanya Kim returned to her hometown recently to take in some fishing, check out the downtown core of the city and her Walk of Fame engraving, and enjoy some local and area attractions. The visit was filmed as part of a segment for etalk, the CTV entertainment news program she co-hosts with Ben Mulroney. Kim's visit was facilitated by the team at Tourism Sault Ste. Marie, a division of the SSMEDC. The division provided logistical and other support for the trip. Video of Kim's visit aired on etalk and is now available online at www.ctv.ca/eTalk/OntarioTourism.aspx?vid=445544.
  • Two members of the SSMEDC have been appointed to the Airport User Committee of the Sault Ste. Marie Airport Development Corporation. Director of Industrial Marketing John Febbraro, along with Tourism Sault Ste. Marie Executive Director Ian McMillan, will serve on the Committee, which is holding its first meeting later this month. The purpose of the newly-formed group is to identify and develop new business and other opportunities for the local airport. Over the past few years, the airport has seen a number of significant successes, including landing the services of Porter Airlines and securing a tenant, JD Aero Technical Inc., a world-leading provider of airline repair, maintenance and overhaul services. The Airport User Committee will work to ensure future opportunities are also capitalized on.
  • Tourism Sault Ste. Marie is developing further linkages to global travel markets. This week, the SSMEDC division hosted two familiarization (FAM) tours from South Korea. One was a group of media writers that were here to experience area tourist attractions and generate stories on them back home. The other FAM tour included nine travel operators and the Deputy General Manager of Asiana Airlines. They are interested in further developing a tourist voyage that would see large groups fly from South Korea to Chicago then motor coach north to Sault Ste. Marie. This tour has been successful in attracting a number of groups since it was first offered two years ago, and this new group of operators is seeking to rebuild on this success and grow the market. In total, Tourism Sault Ste. Marie hosted five FAM tours this past summer and fall.
  • This week, a member of the SSMEDC enterprise team travelled to Chapleau to deliver outreach seminars and meet with current and aspiring entrepreneurs. The Corporation provides business support services throughout Sault Ste. Marie and the surrounding region. The goal is to assist individuals in starting or expanding a company, which creates and retains jobs while generating wealth. In 2013, the SSMEDC conducted more than 400 client consultations with current and aspiring entrepreneurs, which led to 32 company startups and expansions, created or retained 279 jobs, and supported a total community investment of about $13.1 million.

October 3, 2014

  • Last week, the Federal and Provincial Governments announced their commitment of just over $2 million each for the Port of Algoma, a "game changing" transportation infrastructure initiative. At Monday's Council meeting, the City supported the project with $300,000 from its Economic Development Fund. Coupled with an $800,000 investment from Essar Steel Algoma, the funding is going towards planning, design, environmental assessment and consultations, all steps required before the formal port development takes place. The harbour expansion project, when fully developed, will drastically increase the community's capacity - and make it more cost effective - to import and export goods to, from and through the Sault, thus generating significant employment and business opportunities. The SSMEDC, City and other groups have been working to develop this initiative for a number of years through the Transportation Infrastructure Committee, which is Chaired by SSMEDC President Don Mitchell.
  • In its efforts to retain and grow the local lottery and gaming sector, the SSMEDC is representing Sault Ste. Marie at the Global Gaming Expo this week in Las Vegas. The major industry conference brings together hundreds of gaming leaders from private and public sector organizations around the world. While at the expo, the SSMEDC is meeting with industry-leading companies to show potential future operators of Ontario's lottery and gaming business, along with others who supply the sector, that Sault Ste. Marie is the unequalled centre of lottery and gaming excellence with a skilled workforce and suppliers. These efforts are part of the community's continuing campaign to promote Sault Ste. Marie as an industry leader with resident expertise, resources and facilities.
  • The local Online Reservation System, from the SSMEDC's Tourism Sault Ste. Marie division, is seeing considerable growth. In August, bookings were up 40% over last year, followed by a 41% increase in September. Three years ago, Tourism Sault Ste. Marie set up the web-based vacation reservation portal, which was the first of its kind in Northern Ontario. The system allows travellers to book their trip to the Sault with the simple click of a mouse. The portal offers two and three-day packages and features major attractions, including the Agawa Canyon Train Tour, along with add-ons like a Parks Canada walking tour and a visit to the Art Gallery or Bushplane Museum. The Online Reservation System is coordinated by Tourism Sault Ste. Marie staff, including an intern who handles after-hours calls from prospective visitors, with support from the SSMEDC's Finance team who help process the thousands of online transactions per year.
  • The SSMEDC-led Small Business Incubator pilot project in the downtown core is one step closer to being operational. After releasing a request for proposal (RFP) recently related to the location of the site, the SSMEDC received several submissions from property owners and others who have space required to host the incubator. SSMEDC staff are now reviewing the proposals and visiting the sites to determine which is the best fit for the project. Once in operation, the Small Business Incubator will provide space for entrepreneurs to operate their budding companies and deliver a number of direct services, including coaching, mentoring and marketing assistance. The goal is to help owners survive the often-difficult first few years of start-up and to assist them in becoming sustainable in the long term.