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Business expansion, retention project well underway here


The Fort Frances Chamber of Commerce is wrapping up the first step of its business retention and expansion project next week with the aim to move on to analyzing its findings this summer.

The project started back in April when volunteers began surveying 100 local businesses chosen from various sectors.

“The visits we are doing with local businesses have four purposes,” said Crystal Godbout, community development project co-ordinator for the Chamber.

“First, we want to show our local businesses that we really appreciate the contributions they are making to our local community,” she noted. “Second, we want to see if they have any concerns, and, if so, if there are ways we can help.

“Third, we will be offering to help our local businesses take better advantage of business resources. Finally, we want the businesses to help us set priorities on future directions of local economic efforts,” Godbout remarked.

She noted businesses have been receptive, and there’s only been a handful that declined to participate, mainly because they didn’t have the spare time.

But Godbout stressed the importance of businesses’ participation.

“I think this is an excellent opportunity for local business to express any concerns they have about our economy,” she said. “Who better to ask for what kind of improvements we can make than the people who are directly involved in the everyday operations of running a business?

“What will make the project a successful one is the business owner co-operating in completing the surveys,” she added. “More emphasis needs to be put on helping what we already have to make businesses here more successful.

“After that is accomplished, then it will help to attract new business here.”

After the committee has had time to collect and analyze survey results through the use of a database, a public meeting will be held in the fall, with all participating businesses invited to review the results and discuss any ideas they may have on boosting the local economy.

Business retention and expansion has been implemented in hundreds of rural and urban communities in the United States for a number of years. It was introduced in Ontario on a pilot basis in 1998.

Fort Frances is one of the first communities doing such a research project on their own.

Developments of other pilot projects in Ontario have been impressive, said Godbout, adding they’ve resulted in a more business-friendly attitude, new local investment, more jobs, fewer barriers to development, and facilitated access to financing.

For more information on the project, contact Godbout at 274-5773.

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