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Economic development plan unveiled to council

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In further effort to promote Fort Frances as a place to invest in, live in, and visit as a tourist, local economic development officer Geoff Gillon unveiled a new economic development plan to town council at its regular meeting Monday evening.

The plan is a follow-up from this past spring, when the town and Rainy River Future Development Corp. submitted an application to FedNor to fund a three-year economic development strategy.

In September, FedNor approved the application and now will match funds put forth by the town to pursue economic development strategies.

The town previously had been asked to commit $50,000 each year for three years, meaning FedNor will pitch in another $50,000 each year, making for an annual budget of $100,000 to use on Fort Frances-specific economic development work.

Since then, Gillon has put together a plan and draft budget as to how the money would be spent for the first of the three years, which he presented to council Monday night.

The economic development plan addresses Fort Frances as a business location, housing location, and tourism location.

As a business location, it recommends:

•Attracting investment through community investment readiness, which would entail:

1). Developing Fort Frances-specific marketing material, website, and strategy;

2). Actively promoting Fort Frances as a location for business investment;

3). Completing the evaluation and updating of Financial Incentive Plans (FIPs) for community investment readiness;

4). Developing a marketing plan for the FIP programs developed;

5.) Completing a commercial asset analysis;

6). Developing the marketing plan and materials for the FIPs; and

7). Improving Fort Frances’ development website with a focus on Fort Frances economic development information.

•Export development and value-added manufacturing, which would entail:

1). Working towards the development of value-added manufacturing in Fort Frances, especially in the area of wood products and machining. Develop a strategy to promote Fort Frances as a cost-effective business location; and

2) Evaluating the region’s value-added wood products sector and its potential opportunities.

•Transportation/border access project, which would entail

1). Developing ties with the North American Super Corridor Coalition (NASCC) project—Highway 35 trade corridor (north/south) and Canadian National (east/west)—to seek opportunities;

2). Increasing the presence of Fort Frances at the Norther Networks Trade Conference and similar events; and

3). Developing a strategy to market Fort Frances as the business gateway to the U.S., citing location, access to the interstate system, ease of border crossing, etc.

•Telecommunications upgrades—evaluate the current telecommunications service in Fort Frances, and develop a strategy to work towards expanded broadband service in Fort Frances (i.e. wireless hotspots, improved DSL, etc.)

As a housing location, the plan recommends the town:

•Evaluate the potential for expansion of community housing, reviewing such opportunities as condominiums, apartments, assisted living, and increased housing lots;

•Evaluate the potential for increased development of and sale of industrial lots; and

•Develop a strategy to market and sell these assets.

As a tourism destination, the plan recommends community marketing of tourism in Fort Frances, which would include:

•Assisting local hoteliers in creating a Destination Marketing Fund and link it with regional marketing efforts;

•Developing a strategy to market Fort Frances as the premier bass fishing destination in North American, which entails:

1). Creating a marketing partnership

2). Developing a website ad and marketing brochure;

3). Developing ads for Fort Frances; and

4). Attending at least two fishing-related sorts shows in 2008, 2009, and 2010;

•Developing and marketing branding/signage/ads using the Great Canadian Mainstreet/Rainy Lake themes; and

•Reviewing the tourism potential of assets such as the Fort Frances Museum, Memorial Sports Centre, and La Verendrye Parkway.

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