The business retention and expansion survey launched by the Fort Frances Chamber of Commerce back in March has seen a delay over the summer, but will get back into gear this fall once the Chamber hires a new community development intern.
“We’ve just recently received notification [from the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corp.] that we can go ahead and hire another intern for an additional one year,” Chamber manager Dawn Booth said Friday.
“We had already received approval to hire another person for the remainder of [former intern] Kerri’s term, but we were hoping we could get an additional one year instead of the six months they were supposed to do,” she added.
“So we just got notification of that. We’ve been waiting since May.
“We just did the job ad this week, and it will be in the paper again next week,” noted Booth. “As soon as we get some applications in, we’ll do interviews and have somebody start up that project again.”
Kerri Dittaro, who had been the community development intern heading up the BR&E survey, left the position for another job in mid-May.
“Since then it hasn’t been at a complete standstill,” Booth said of the survey. “Irene Laing, who’s one of our volunteer visitors, has continued to go out and do numerous surveys over the summer months.
“We do have about 30 surveys done already, with our goal being 100.
“We’re hoping that within the next month, we’ll have someone hired,” Booth added. “That person, of course, will need a little bit of training before they go out and start doing anything, but we’ll be back out there doing surveys, inputting all the data, putting together a report, holding a public meeting, and all of that.”
Booth said there’s no tight timeline or target date at this point to compile and present the survey findings, and that the future of the project depends on getting a new intern.
“We haven’t had a committee meeting since May to talk about BR&E at all,” admitted Booth. “Everything was pretty much at a standstill aside from Irene going out and doing surveys.
“It will pretty much depend on the person that’s hired and how much experience they have, and how much training they’re going to need, in order to put a timeline together,” she remarked.
But Booth stressed the BR&E survey will be completed, and those businesses that already have participated can rest assured their input will be included in the final report and action plan.
“We’re still raring to go with that project—there was just a little bit of a delay,” she noted.
As previously reported, local businesses are encouraged to participate in the survey.
All they have to do is contact the Chamber at 274-5773 and set up an appointment with whoever is the new community development intern or one of the trained “volunteer visitors.”
The intern or volunteer then will sit down with each participating business and personally conduct the survey—they do all the writing.
The survey entails answering a series of standardized questions—many of which can be answered simply by checking off a box though others call for the participant to give more personalized input.
The survey takes about an hour to complete.
By taking the survey, participants not only get to voice their concerns about retaining and expanding local business, but also will learn to take better advantage of the business resources available in the community as well as be able to help set priorities on the future direction of local economic efforts.
It’s important the project have the participation of as many local businesses as possible because the more survey responses the community development intern can get, the clearer issues affecting the entire business community will be represented in the findings.
Once the survey results are compiled, they will be analyzed. The BR&E task force then will put together a report and create a long-term action plan based on the survey findings.
This information will be presented to the public at a future meeting.
The BR&E project is being financially supported by the Chamber of Commerce, Rainy River Future Development Corp., and Town of Fort Frances.
The community development intern position is being funded through a Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corp. grant.