Fort Frances will look into hiring its own economic development officer rather than renew membership with the district’s Rainy River Future Development Corporation.
“Not wanting to take anything away from the district, we’ve gotten to the stage where we need an individual to take more time and be more places,” explained Mayor Glenn Witherspoon.
Council reached the decision when putting out a request for proposal for management of the Fort Frances Airport. Council wanted to keep the existing administration at the airport but that administration lacked marketing skills.
“We’ve had a couple things, the airport being one, that showed we need to focus more on economic development,” said Coun. Sharon Tibbs.
Fort Frances is the largest contributing member of the Rainy River Future Development Corporation which the promotes the entire district. According to Coun. Dave Bourgeault the corporation has done a good job promoting the district but the town needs to have direct control over its own economic development in order to accomplish more.
“What’s good for Fort Frances is good for Emo and Rainy River but we just need to get out there and do things for the job for Fort Frances,” said Mayor Witherspoon who wants a town economic developer to take on marketing in the U.S. and across Canada of the airport the industrial park, work with the new public utility commission, create more activity downtown, promote the town’s latest communication improvements as well as support new and existing buildings.
“There are things we just can’t get done,” explained Coun. Bourgeault. “We’ve had a good relationship and Geoff Gillon does a lot of work for us but he reports to the board.”
“I sat on that board at on point and the kinds of things going on there are important in terms of the district. I firmly believe that if you promoted the town properly you may be able to attract more people to come and live here,” he added.
“Our official response is ‘we’ve never been notified officially so we really can’t comment,’” said chair of the RRFDC Telford Advent.
The RRFDC issued a letter to the town asking for clarification.
Coun. Struchan Gilson said he wasn’t in support of withdrawing membership because of the impact on the district but he did want to keep airport administration within the town.
“If we sell the town, we’re selling the fact that we’re on the railroad line and on the border,” he explained.