In our continued efforts to provide accountability for the operating investments made in the Sault Ste. Marie Economic Development Corporation (SSMEDC), here’s another edition of our Weekly Activity Report:
· After recovering from the 2008 global recession reasonably well, the Sault’s economy is poised for further growth. Local GDP is expected to rise by 1.4% in 2015 and 1.4% in 2016. These are the findings from a recently-released report from the Conference Board of Canada. Between 2010 and 2014, the city’s GDP increased by an average of 0.9%. The uptick for 2015-16 is being attributed to growth in personal services, wholesale and retail trade, and transportation and warehousing. Though also citing some economic challenges, the report reveals promise in the knowledge-based IT sector, as the community looks to establish a Data Centre while lottery and gaming agencies work to grow their local operations. The report was commissioned by the SSMEDC in order to have a qualified, third-party economic analysis of Sault Ste. Marie.
· Over the past several weeks, Tourism Sault Ste. Marie and its industry partners have been ramping up an aggressive marketing plan for the Agawa Canyon Train Tour. The campaign is taking place in strategic areas throughout Ontario and the U.S. The Train Tour remains the region’s number one travel generator and, as such, stakeholders look forward to another successful season. The tourist attraction, which takes passengers on a one-day wilderness excursion 114 miles north of the Sault, recently underwent an $11-million overhaul and now boasts upgraded coaches and onboard audio/video technology. The enhancement project was spearheaded by Tourism Sault Ste. Marie, a division of the SSMEDC. It should be noted that the Tour Train is in no way impacted by this week’s announcement of a ceasing of the Sault-to-Hearst passenger rail service.
· The SSMEDC is in the process of finalizing its Millworks small business incubator in the Machine Shop at Mill Square. As such, a member of the Corporation’s Enterprise Services team now has a temporary, part-time office at the site. Having a presence there makes it easy to oversee the development and meet with prospective tenants to give them tours of the complex. Once complete, the SSMEDC’s Enterprise Services staff, which provides support for area entrepreneurs to open and grow small businesses, will be located at Millworks. Located at the former St. Marys Paper site, the small business incubator will provide space for entrepreneurs to operate their budding companies through the support of direct services, including coaching, mentoring and marketing assistance. The goal is to assist owners in developing a sustainable, long term operation.
· Here are a couple blasts from the past. In 2012, Tourism Sault Ste. Marie assisted an area organizing committee in coordinating the inaugural Ride For Sight, a charity motorcycle event that raises money for the Foundation Fighting Blindness while also attracting visitors. Around that same time, the SSMEDC division assisted the City of Sault Ste. Marie in securing funding from senior levels of government to build the Heritage Discovery Centre at the Ermatinger-Clergue National Historic Site. Both initiatives continue to generate significant results. This weekend, the fourth-annual Ride For Sight is taking place. And on Wednesday, at the meeting of the local Historic Sites Board, it was revealed that, in large part to the Heritage Discovery Centre, visitations to the Ermatinger-Clergue site are around 10,000 per year, the highest in many, many years.