Community panel tackles citizen morale and economic diversification

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Last week at The Tech, a panel discussion featuring Mayor Christian Provenzano and other officials tackled a number of topics, including encouraging entrepreneurship, bolstering community morale and fostering economic diversification.

What can individuals and groups do to encourage entrepreneurship, bolster community morale and help foster economic diversification? This was the focus of a panel discussion last week at The Tech. The forum was hosted by StartUP Sault and the YouLaunch program of the Sault Ste. Marie Innovation Centre, in partnership with the Sault Ste. Marie Economic Development Corporation, Millworks Centre for Entrepreneurship, Sault Ste. Marie Chamber of Commerce, Community Development Corporation of Sault Ste. Marie & Area, and Business Development Bank of Canada.
One question posed to the panel dealt with the level of citizen morale in Sault Ste. Marie. Mayor Christian Provenzano was the first to answer. “Our community has had some challenges, and it’s natural that when you go through challenging times, to feel negatively,” he said evenly. “But I firmly believe that this community can put itself up against any other community for being a fantastic place to live. We have to believe in that message and sell that message – not just to the people that don’t live here, but also to the people that do.”

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Angela Bruni, Andrew Ross, Rory Ring, Karen Senecal, Heather Lewis, Mayor Christian Provenzano and Nevin Buconjic

Another question posed to the panel was related to the local economy and what can be done to strengthen and diversify it. Nevin Buconjic, Manager of Trade, Investment & Community Marketing for the Sault Ste. Marie Economic Development Corporation, spoke about some of the promising initiatives currently underway.

“Through our Invest Sault Ste. Marie program, we’re identifying companies with export potential, and we’re working to sell these opportunities outside of the community,” said Buconjic, who’s also the founder of StartUP Sault. “As well, we’re working to identify the key sectors that we should be looking at for attracting business. The community has gone after a number of sectors over the years, but things have changed, and we may have different opportunities now and more competitive advantages now for different sectors.”

Moderated by Angela Bruni, Economic Development Officer with the Sault Ste. Marie Economic Development Corporation, the other panel discussion participants were:

Heather Lewis, Entrepreneurship Coordinator for the YouLaunch program of the Sault Ste. Marie Innovation Centre;

Rory Ring, CEO of the Sault Ste. Marie Chamber of Commerce;

Andrew Ross, General Manager of Enterprise Services for the Sault Ste. Marie Economic Development Corporation; and

Karen Senecal, Business Development & Investment Manager for the Community Development Corporation of Sault Ste. Marie & Area.
More than 50 people attended the forum. The panel discussion followed a screening of Generation Startup. Released in September 2016, the documentary film follows six budding entrepreneurs as they embark upon the startup journey in Detroit, Michigan. The movie gives a glimpse of what it is really like to build a company while also showing how a community can rebuild and reinvent itself. Online: www.generationstartupthefilm.com.