Local families and businesses will benefit from new economic opportunities thanks to a $1.1 million investment from FedNor to help the city implement its Future Sault Ste. Marie initiative.
Sault MP Terry Sheehan along with Mayor Christian Provenzano and Tom Vair of Community Development & Enterprise Services for Sault Ste Marie, announced this government funding Thursday afternoon.
“What we want to do is see what are the opportunities in today’s economy that the City of Sault Ste. Marie can capitalize on, with diversification,” Sheehan said. “Whether it’s traditional economic manufacturing engines, and perhaps spinning off businesses from them, could be IT related, what are the opportunities in health and education, culture – there’s a plethora. It’s everything from A-Z and if a few of those ideas can germinate and create some jobs, this will be extremely successful.”
Future Sault Ste. Marie will focus on four strategic pillars – economic growth and diversity, social equity, cultural vitality, and environmental sustainability – to support community and economic development. The project, spearheaded by the Community Adjustment Committee, is the result of a community adjustment exercise that took place in 2016, following the restructuring of of three major Sault employers – Algoma Steel, Tenaris, and OLG.
Provenzano said one part of this initiative is to create opportunities that allow youth to stay and prosper in the Sault.
“Our youth are critical. And we have very significant demographic challenges in this community. So we need to embrace our youth and we need to develop a community that our youth certainly want to live in. And they’re going to be critical to making that happen,” he explained. “I’ve really enjoyed my time this term working with the mayor’s youth advisory council, a great group of young people that are really making a difference in their community, but we have to do more. When you grow up here, you have to see a future for yourself here. And to see a future for yourself here, there have to be interesting things you want to do, and you also have to see a job opportunity in a field that you’re interested in. So it’s not just a matter of going out and finding a company and arguing that they should move to Sault Ste. Marie; it’s a matter of investing in and developing our community, so we’re frankly building the community that we want to live in and have as opposed to just maintaining the community that we currently have.”
Sheehan shared this sentiment, saying:
“The youth will be a major factor in this. It is critical. My $1.1 million is leveraging three additional million, so it’s about a $4 million project – it’s very significant. It’s multi-year, and if we strengthen a lot of our economy, our educational institutions, our cultural facilities, it gives our youth a reason to stay, it gives our youth a reason to come back. And that’s one of the critical things that I’ve always been about, and will continue to demonstrate why Sault Ste. Marie is one of the best places to live work and play.”
So, what’s next?
“We have a community development round table which has a number of community leaders that are working together to look at our community and different opportunities. But we’ve got specific sector experts that are looking at different sectors of our community and seeing if there are any projects we can move forward in those sectors,” Provenzano said. “You saw city council this week just announced that we’re going to move forward with the Smart Grid Project. There’s lots of positive things that came out of that smart grid project. So we’re going to study that and look at that and see what else can we do to build on that smart grid project. So I do believe you’re going to see a lot of different activities over the next year. You’re going to see at council on Monday that we’re going to talk to council about the community’s brand, and the community’s narrative and story and how we can build that and how we can build a positive brand and sell ourselves more effectively. Not just outside of the community, but also internally so that we raise our esteem as a community.”