The district's regional economic development organization no longer will have to worry about where its next dollar is coming from thanks to $2.25 million in funding from the federal government.
Local MP Don Rusnak was at Curvy Chick here Thursday afternoon to announce that the not-for-profit Rainy River Future Development Corp. would receive $1.5 million to support its ongoing operations over the next five years and $750,000 to provide loans and equity investments to local entrepreneurs.
In addition to its economic development and planning services, the volunteer-based RRFDC also offers financial services to individuals trying to grow a small business in the district.
“Thanks to the significant and long-term investment by the Government of Canada, the RRFDC will continue to deliver concrete results for residents and local businesses,” Rusnak said in making the announcement.
“Today's announcement demonstrates our commitment towards building a strong economy, growing the middle class, and creating jobs right here in Fort Frances and the surrounding area,” he remarked.
In the past, there hasn't been guaranteed funding for the RRFDC to ensure it can remain viable, which made it difficult to make long-term commitments and see long-term projects through.
Looking ahead, Rusnak said there are numerous business opportunities in the district for entrepreneurs, with the possibility of the paper mill here re-starting, an increased population from the New Gold mine north of Barwick, and the town's proximity to the United States.
“The people with ideas just need support and that's what the RRFDC provides,” he noted.
“With that five-year commitment, they can now plan and work with businesses on long-term plans to improve the life of people here in Northwestern Ontario,” Rusnak added.
Since 1982, the RRFDC has provided budding entrepreneurs with a place to bring their ideas to secure funding.
“Some of those start-up businesses that may not be able to get bank loans can come to the RRFDC and get those loans,” Rusnak explained.
“It's really community-building and really helping out the young people, and even some older people, that decide to get into business for themselves.”
RRFDC chair Gordon Armstrong of Rainy River said the board is thrilled that the federal government is supporting the organization's commitment to promoting economic growth in the district.
“This financial assistance will go a long way in helping us in our efforts to support businesses, business development, create jobs, and improve the commercial and interest base of the Rainy River District,” he lauded.
The RRFDC currently has a $4.2-million investment portfolio and roughly 68 active loans in sectors of retail, food services, food processing, tourist accommodation, machining, and equipment repair.
In addition to loans, it also helps mentor budding business owners.
“Our goal is to take a entrepreneur, nurture them over four or five years, and hopefully graduate them to the senior banks,” said RRFDC executive director Geoff Gillon.
Curvy Chick owner Jennifer Horton is one of those entrepreneurs who first came to the RRFDC to help open her business six years ago.
“I started out accessing a small loan through RRFDC and then getting a line of credit to expand,” she recalled.
“In 2017, I was able to purchase this building here.”
Horton said Angela Halverson of the RRFDC has been great to work with, and that they still meet monthly to go through the ups and downs of her business.
“I just want to say we are very lucky to have such a supportive organization like RRFDC in our area,” she lauded.
Gillon encourages anyone with ideas for a business or community project to pitch them at the RRFDC's office, which is located upstairs in the credit union building on Mowat Avenue here.