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Mayor believes diversification puts dent in city's old image.

Mayor believes diversification puts dent in city's old image

Sault Ste. Marie Mayor Joe Fratesi says he is pleased with the progress of efforts to diversify the city's economy.

Fratesi believes diversification has made an appreciable difference in the traditional image of the city and has proven that it has the ability to change.

The mayor traces the beginning of the diversification to the 1982 downturn in the steel industry and the reduction in employment at Algoma Steel Corporation from about 12,500 to roughly 7,500 people.

It took a few years for people to accept that it wasn't just a temporary situation, he said, adding that the city began to pick itself up by 1985, and since then has become less dependent on Algoma Steel.

"Obviously, the relocation of government offices to our city has been important," said Fratesi.

The mayor points to the relocation of the Ontario Lottery Corporation to the Sault as as an example of government relocation, noting that the move has already begun.

"They (the corporation) are not waiting for the new building," he said, noting that the new provincial office complex may not be ready for a year and a half.

As of early April, the president and about 50 senior executives of the lottery corporation had already taken up residence in the city. One hundred more employees are expected by the summer and a total of 350 will be transferred when the move is complete.

The corporation has rented an old Dominion store and is renovating it at a cost of $700,000.

The lottery corporation will also mean a transfer of technology to the city.

Fratesi noted that there will be two floors of computer technicians.

In addition, he said there will be spin-off business, such as the printing of tickets.

"We've been told they have every potential and desire to do it (printing) in our community."

The lottery corporation is one of three provincial agencies which will occupy the $74-million complex on the city's waterfront. There will also be the Forest Resources Group of the Ministry of Natural Resources and a forensic laboratory of the Ministry of the Solicitor General to serve Northern Ontario.

A significant number of the Forest Resources Group's 300 employees have also already made the move.

While noting that the forensic sciences laboratory will only involve 14 or 15 people, Fratesi said it will have a significant impact, "not because of the numbers, but because of the sophistication."

There is also an $18-million research facility for the Ontario Tree Improvement and Forest Biomass Institute under construction. It will house automated greenhouses, laboratories and offices to serve 100 researchers.

"I don't think anyone will deny that Sault Ste. Marie, regardless of its size, will be the centre of forestry research in Canada," Fratesi stated.

The forestry research jobs are highly technical and give the city a whole new set of credentials, he said.

SEVERAL BASKETS

In other areas, Fratesi believes the city's economy is solid. Algoma Steel, for example, is a new, lean machine, he noted.

"We're pretty proud of the fact that tourism will play an important role," Fratesi added. "Not all of our eggs are in the one basket."

The mayor believes tourism is one of the strong points of the city and that it has a lot of potential.

That potential will be increased by projects such as current developments at Ski Searchmont. "It draws from all over Northern Ontario."

Fratesi also points to the municipal fish hatchery which rears and stocks salmon.

"It's a novel idea, but it's part of the diversification. All of this is now on the front burner."

PAUL BICKFORD Staff Writer
COPYRIGHT 1990 Laurentian Business Publishing, Inc.
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Title Annotation:Focus on Sault Ste. Marie; Joe Fratesi
Author:Bickford, Paul
Publication:Northern Ontario Business
Date:May 1, 1990
Words:612
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