Based on national averages, roughly 80% of community economic growth comes from within, while only 20% is derived externally. That is to say, most development and job creation happens when local businesses expand. Sault Ste. Marie is no exception. With this reality in mind, while working to attract external companies and investment to the city, Sault Ste. Marie Economic Development Corporation (SSMEDC) activity also supports established firms in their growth initiatives.
Through the SSMEDC’s Business Retention & Expansion Program, 20 local companies grew and added staff in 2016. This activity created more than 167 direct jobs, retained 314 jobs and led to approximately $19 million in new investments made in the community. These clients are typically larger firms and organizations that undertake major growth initiatives.
Though not all firms wish to be named due to confidentiality concerns, and some owners don’t want specific details on their project released publically, clients assisted by the SSMEDC under the program last year include: JD Aero, China Steel, Fleming’s Trucking & Logging, Meakin Contracting, Sault Ste. Marie Airport Development Corporation, SIS Group and its Paper Mill District redevelopment project, Norpro Company, Springer Aerospace, Soo Foundry & Machine, Tessier Logging, Sault College, Municipal Waste & Recycling, Humphrey Aircraft Services, Premier Landscaping, Chippewa Trading Post and Northern Superior Brewing.
Under the Business Retention & Expansion Program, the SSMEDC undertakes a consultation process to develop strategies that address the needs of companies. In 2016, for example, staff made more than 60 site visits to local firms to gather intelligence. In most cases, the SSMEDC assists clients in accessing new markets or acquiring funds to purchase equipment and undertake capital improvements.
Soo Foundry & Machine is a prime example. It utilized the SSMEDC program to acquire funds and buy specialty equipment to further expand into the energy sector. The firm now provides services to wind farms across Canada, and there is potential to generate export opportunities. “For medium-sized businesses looking to export, it’s important to have an organization like the SSMEDC to help make connections,” said Robert Cohen, president of Soo Foundry & Machine. “It’s impossible to do this type of work alone.”
As another example, the Business Retention & Expansion Program helped Norpro Company make connections to secure major contracts in the mining sector. “Breaking into new markets is tough,” said Norpro president Brad Gregorini. “Having the SSMEDC on our side has been a huge help. They quickly opened doors for our company that would have taken us years to open ourselves. The SSMEDC is a key part of our team.”
For Northern Superior Brewing, the firm used the SSMEDC program to support the purchase of a canning machine. As a result, the business is now producing and selling a lot more suds with a larger workforce. Over the next year, the company expects to double production and sell its canned beer in stores, restaurants and arenas throughout the region. “The SSMEDC helped guide us to the people we needed to talk with to help make this expansion happen,” said Jeff DiCorpo, who reopened Northern Superior Brewing with three business partners last year.
Companies in Sault Ste. Marie and Northern Ontario are able to take advantage of regional incentive programs. As a result, the SSMEDC’s Business Retention & Expansion Program often helps firms access funds from agencies such as the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation, FedNor and the Business Development Bank of Canada.
“Generally speaking, business owners are extremely busy and may not be overly familiar with the process of applying for incentive funding. That’s where we come in,” said John Febbraro, the SSMEDC’s Director of Industrial & Business Development. “We help our clients access new markets and raise capital. For manufacturing and forestry firms, for example, the investments are often used to purchase specialty equipment. The end result leads to job creation and retention in Sault Ste. Marie.”
For reporting accuracy, the SSMEDC uses job creation and retention figures from the funding application used to undertake the expansion project. Incentive agencies have applications vetted by professional accounting firms. As such, there’s a solid foundation to correctly cite the impacts of the SSMEDC’s Business Retention & Expansion Program.
Meanwhile, Business Retention & Expansion is one of several programs offered by the SSMEDC. The organization also delivers Invest Sault Ste. Marie, an initiative aimed at attracting external companies and investment to the community, along with Enterprise Services, which supports small business owners and young entrepreneurs in their startup and expansion. Last year, these programs generated more than 30 new business startups and over 20 business expansions. This activity helped create 233 jobs and retain 320 jobs.
“Our team offers a continuum of services geared towards businesses and entrepreneurs of all sizes in all sectors,” said Tom Dodds, Chief Executive Officer of the SSMEDC. “This activity generates community investments, creates and retains jobs, and adds to the Municipal tax base.”
A full report of the SSMEDC’s 2016 activity and results is expected to be released in the coming weeks. To view reports from previous years, along with other information, visit www.sault-canada.com.