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Big federal bucks announced on March Street (updated, 4 photos)

Monday, July 28, 2014   by: Darren Taylor

“This is pretty cool.”

That’s how Greg Rickford, federal minister of natural resources and minister responsible for FedNor (pictured), described funding announcements held outdoors on March Street Monday morning.

Rickford said the city of Sault Ste. Marie will receive, from FedNor, $839,500 for downtown core revitalization measures, with another $252,000 to the Sault Ste. Marie Economic Development Corporation (SSMEDC) for the establishment of a small business incubator in the Sault’s downtown.

“In addition to sprucing up the downtown area we’re also helping the city address commercial vacancies in this neighbourhood,” Rickford said.

“(In addition) the small business incubator in the downtown core will promote job creation and diversify the economy.”

“(The job incubator) will focus on business training for new entrepreneurs who are seeking to expand and grow, helping them succeed and move out on their own in downtown Sault Ste. Marie.”

The $839,500 for downtown core revitalization will specifically go towards installation of seating, lighting fixtures, new paving stones and sidewalks for the Gore Street area and parts of Queen Street, not only for much-needed beautification, but also to attract and retain new business start-ups in the area .

The $252,000 from FedNor to the SSMEDC will, specifically, establish a small business incubator in the Sault’s downtown core, a three-year initiative that will focus on helping small and medium-sized businesses which offer services in such areas as engineering, accounting and graphic design.

While there are downtown areas in southern Ontario communities that have definitely seen better days, Rickford told SooToday.com he and the federal government see a lot of potential for revival in the Sault’s downtown core.

“We believe in northern Ontario and our cities and towns across the region,” Rickford said.

“We’ve made an ongoing commitment to make sure communities have the right tools they need for economic development, jobs, growth and innovation…these are key principles FedNor operates under.”

“In addition to providing support for the cosmetics there’s got to be something beyond that so the incubator announcement is just as important,” Rickford said.

“We want to help and support the production of new small businesses that can fill the vacant spaces that are boarded up.”

Rickford agreed with recent statements made by the Sault EDC that successful start-up of small to medium-sized businesses is the key to economic growth in today’s economy.

“We do have some large scale manufacturers in mines, steel production and forestry, but small businesses are what keep people tied to their communities, and that’s what we want to support,” Rickford said.

On a larger economic development scale, Rickford told SooToday.com the federal government supports Sault Ste. Marie’s vision for a deep-water port, but would not speculate on when some movement would be seen on development of the port.

A third funding announcement was made by Rickford Monday, which will see $1,066,500 in FedNor investment go to enabling 30 recent post-secondary graduates across northern Ontario gain on-the-job experience through FedNor youth internships.

Rickford said graduates usually stay in northern Ontario to live and work in the region.

Rickford, MP for Kenora, was joined by Sault MP Bryan Hayes, Tony Clement, president of the treasury board and MP for Parry Sound -Muskoka, and Jay Aspin, Conservative MP for Nipissing-Timiskaming.

The four men form part of Team Northern Ontario within the Conservative caucus, of which Clement is head.

The team, on a tour of Northern Ontario, had held a caucus meeting in the Sault early Monday morning prior to the funding announcements.

“The FedNor youth intern program has been able to give that critical first-job experience right here in northern Ontario, and they start to build their lives here in northern Ontario, which continues throughout their career,” said Clement, who was the longest-serving FedNor minister (2006-2013) before becoming president of the treasury board.  

A number of city councillors and city staff members were present for Monday’s funding announcements, including Paul Christian, ward one city councillor (who also served as acting mayor), Terry Sheehan, Ward 2 councillor, and Joe Fratesi, city chief administrative officer (CAO).

Downtown improvement and the establishment of a business incubator have been items high on city council’s list of priorities.

A business incubator was an idea put forward by Sheehan and endorsed by council.

“This is a very positive step forward in the development of the Downtown Incubator,” Sheehan wrote in an e-mail to SooToday.com Monday.

“This will help grow jobs and businesses which will benefit the entire community.”  

“The National Business Incubation Association in the United States says incubated companies have an 87 percent success rate compared with 44 percent for the average start-up,” Sheehan stated in his e-mail. 

“I am hopeful that we will be hearing from the NOHFC (the provincial government) shortly so that we can get the Downtown Incubator up and running soon,” Sheehan wrote.

A news release issued by FedNor follows.

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The Honourable Greg Rickford, Canada’s Minister of Natural Resources and the Minister for the Federal Economic Development Initiative for Northern Ontario (FedNor), today announced an investment that will support Northern Ontario youth and position small and medium-sized businesses for growth.

This Harper Government investment of $2,158,000 will support 30 youth internships across Northern Ontario, enable the City of Sault Ste. Marie to revitalize its downtown core with streetscape improvements, and assist the Sault Ste. Marie Economic Development Corporation to establish and operate a small business incubator in the community’s downtown area.

In addition, Minister Rickford launched a new initiative to help more small and medium-sized enterprises in Northern Ontario benefit from the talent and skills offered by post-secondary graduates to support business growth.

The private sector youth internship initiative will be delivered through two Community Futures Development Corporation (CFDC) Networks, on behalf of CFDCs across Northern Ontario.

Quick Facts

  • The funding announced today is provided through FedNor’s Northern Ontario Development Program, which supports projects that promote sustainable community economic development, enhance business development and growth, and facilitate innovation throughout the region.
  • Since 2006, through FedNor’s Northern Ontario Development Program, the Government of Canada has invested more than $308 million in support of 1,500 projects. These investments have created more than 15,000 jobs throughout Northern Ontario.

Quotes

“Our Government is helping Northern Ontario communities and businesses maximize their potential by investing in key initiatives that create opportunities for youth, business growth, economic development and job creation. Today’s announcement will increase the competitiveness of entrepreneurs in Sault Ste. Marie and across the region, as well as strengthen the economy of Northern Ontario,” The Honourable Greg Rickford, Canada’s Minister of Natural Resources and Minister for FedNor.

“Today’s announcement will not only assist a variety of small and medium-sized enterprises to complete a range of strategic initiatives with the help of youth interns, it will also retain talented, young post-secondary graduates in Northern Ontario, as well as help businesses to grow, create jobs and prosper, delivering positive results for the people who live and work in the region,” Bryan Hayes, Member of Parliament for Sault Ste. Marie.

“On behalf of all the funding recipients, I’d like to thank FedNor and Minister Rickford for their support of youth interns who provide organizations across the North with much sought-after skills. We recognize how important youth are to the vitality of our region. And on behalf of Sault Ste. Marie, we are excited about moving forward with two priority initiatives that will help address commercial vacancies in the downtown area and extend support services for sustainable business development,” Debbie Amaroso, Mayor, City of Sault Ste. Marie.

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