FORT FRANCES—With news last Thursday of the $84.3-million biomass boiler project getting the go ahead at the local mill, area businesses and leaders are rejoicing.
“The Chamber’s thrilled about the announcement,” said Fort Frances Chamber of Commerce president Christine Denby, who also works at Gillons’ Insurance.
“It’s good for Fort Frances, it’s good for the Rainy River District,” she added. “It’s good for Northwestern Ontario and it’s good for the forestry industry.”
“It’s definitely good news for the town,” agreed Russ Ling, chair of the local Business Improvement Association and manager of Taggs Source for Sports here.
“It’s going to create more business, it’s going to create more jobs,” he enthused. “There’s no doubt it’s a great thing for the community.”
“It’s good news,” said Dan Cousineau of Cousineau Brokers. “The real estate market will definitely pick up.
“It’s that time of year when it gets busier anyhow, but I think there were a lot of people sitting back waiting to see what was going to happen.
“Now that they know what’s going on, it gives them some peace of mind and maybe a little more security for the next ‘x’ number of years,” Cousineau added. “I think it will have a positive effect on the market overall.
“It sounds like it’s going to create jobs and that’s always good. People need to live somewhere,” he chuckled.
Cousineau, also a long-time BIA board member, felt the announcement gives people “a more positive outlook on business” in Fort Frances.
“It very well may help downtown fill up some empty spots,” he remarked. “People have to have some sort of hope when they open up a new business that they’ll be successful.
“If there’s too many unknowns out there, it makes you wonder if you can be successful. This should help that area a lot.”
“It’s really good news,” echoed Chuck Arpin of Pinewood Sports & Marine. “With the uncertainty through the fall and winter, everyone, including myself, kept fairly tight purse strings.
“And consequently, it’s fairly hard on the economy.
“With the news that came out last week, we’ve already seen people loosen up a little,” he added. “It’s darn good news. I think everyone needs it.
“Right across the board, it’s going to be a nice jump for the community,” said Arpin.
“It’s great news. It’s good for the community,” said Richard Boileau of McTaggart’s. “Every job that’s secure is great news for Fort Frances.”
He added it appears the economic spin-offs from the project will be varied, whether it’s a boost to local restaurants, gas stations, or retailers.
“It’s a great opportunity for Fort Frances. I’m just glad we were able to get it here,” remarked Boileau. “It should be great for the downtown, great for the whole town, great for the Rainy River District.”
Bob Green of Green’s Countrywide Furniture & Appliances, who just started remodelling at the store this week, said the green-light for the project will be boon for local businesses.
“It’s going to mean more money, more people, and more jobs in town,” he noted, adding that while business hasn’t necessarily been slow at his store, some people have been reluctant to spend as much as they might prior to the announcement.
“I think people were worried a little bit, thinking, ‘If we don’t get [the boiler], then what’s going to happen with the mill?’ That was the big thing,” Green said.
“Everybody’s happier now.”
“One word—ecstatic,” replied Ted Brockie of Brockie’s Jewellers when asked for his reaction to last week’s announcement.
And with the official launch of the “Building for the Future” library fundraising drive coming up next Friday (March 23), Fort Frances Public Library board chairperson Joyce Cunningham said the biomass boiler announcement has helped create the perfect atmosphere for a successful campaign.
“We see the whole announcement about the biomass boiler as a very positive thing for the town,” she enthused.
“It’s actually one more in a series of good news stories for our town,” added Cunningham, referring to the $1.6 million library grant announced last month, the successful “Just Imagine” campaign for a CT Scanner here, and the recent museum renovations and upcoming heritage tourism projects.
“They go hand-in-hand towards the development of the community as a place where people will want to stay and want to come to,” she remarked.
“All of these activities and announcements are going in the same direction,” added Cunningham. “They’re creating a positive outlook for our community, and giving a good feeling to the community and its citizens.
“I’ve seen so much more optimism on people’s faces in the past week.”
“All of these good things are coming together for Fort Frances, adding to the quality of life here,” agreed Denby. “There’s been so much doom and gloom with other announcements elsewhere—we need this.”