Stakeholders partner to ensure long-term viability of Searchmont Resort

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Area stakeholders have formed a unique partnership to enable Searchmont Resort to continue to operate on a financially-stable basis. On December 30, the Sault Ste. Marie Economic Development Corporation (SSMEDC) purchased the resort from Searchmont Ski Association Inc. (SSAI). The transaction was required to ensure the facility operates this year and continues to evolve as a four-season destination attraction. SSAI, a not-for-profit corporation, will continue to operate the resort and is now leasing it from the SSMEDC.

“Searchmont Resort is a vital community asset and destination tourism attraction,” said Don Mitchell, President and Board Chair of the SSMEDC. “The resort’s operation provides a significant community, recreational and economic benefit for Sault Ste. Marie and area. This acquisition was necessary to help ensure it continues to operate on a sustainable basis and is able to provide these benefits in the future. Because we’re an independent, not-for-profit economic development organization, we were able to use our leverage to help make this partnership a reality. However, it’s important to note that our ownership stake in the facility is expected to be short term. Our objective is to better position the facility for long-term sustainability, in partnership with SSAI and Destination North.”

Destination North, a not-for-profit corporation with a mandate to act as a multi-purpose community economic development catalyst, is seeking to further develop a regional tourism and community attraction at the former St. Marys paper site. The organization has partnered with the SSMEDC and SSAI to support the marketing, promotion and administration of the newly-restructured Searchmont Resort. The three groups are now working together to undertake required capital improvements to the facility and to prepare a development strategy and business plan that will include integrating the marketing and promotion of the resort with other local destination attractions and programming.

“We see Searchmont Resort as highly complementary and well aligned with our plans to develop a major destination tourist attraction and demand generator that embraces all of the community and surrounding area,” said Justus Veldman, a spokesperson for Destination North. “It’s all part of our long-term goal of working with partners to create a variety of products and offerings that attract visitors and continue to improve the quality of life for area residents.”

Operating for more than 50 years, Searchmont Resort provides an estimated economic impact of $5.4 million per year for the Sault area, with $8 million to $12 million in overall annual benefits. The business also supports approximately 80 jobs and attracts up to 45,000 ski and snowboard patrons each year, many of whom are visitors who spend one or more nights in Sault Ste. Marie. Additionally, the resort promotes active living through recreational, competitive and educational programming, and is an important lure for the recruitment of professionals to the community.

“The objective of the partnership between SSAI, the SSMEDC and Destination North is to enhance the value of the Searchmont Resort, establish a sustainable financial model for the facility’s operation, and exploit the community asset potential of the attraction,” said Greg Peres, Secretary of SSAI. “As time goes on, it is expected that the ownership and operational structure will evolve in a manner that best supports these longer-term objectives.”

All three organizations involved in the Searchmont Resort partnership are community-based, not-for-profit corporations. For further information, visit the following websites:

www.sault-canada.com;
www.searchmont.com; and
www.millsquare.ca/destination-north.html.

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