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Christy Marinig: Public Sector Award--Northeastern Ontario.

Who would have imagined overhearing a conversation at a conference could plant a thought that would eventually lead to the development of a multimillion-dollar economic development project in Timmins.

Christy Marinig, Timmins Economic Development Corp. (TEDC) manager, believes there are an abundance of opportunities in the North, and innovative ideas sprout in the least expected places, which is how the $12.9-million Discover Abitibi project came to be.

Discover Abitibi is a geoscience project aimed at stimulating exploration in the Abitibi Greenstone Belt, with the ultimate goal of finding a deposit rich enough that can be developed into a mine.

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Marinig, and former co-worker Kathy Keast, economic development officer at TEDC, were attending a Prospectors and Developers Conference in 2000 when they joined in on a conversation about a proposed academic research project. Geological Survey of Canada was considering the geoscience initiative as an academic project, while Marinig believed the project had its merits as a practical application that would offer the mining industry immediate results and benefits.

"We looked at it and asked ourselves what the best bang for our buck would be for this region, and asked 'What do we need to find minerals and gold?'" Marinig says. "The mining industry wants things that are more practical and things that they could immediately put in to use. With a project like this, you get immediate buy-in from the stakeholders."

Marinig and Keast spearheaded a project to pull together key industry stakeholders to bring Discover Abitibi to fruition in the Timmins region.

"It just shows that from a conversation you can develop ideas and implement things," Marinig says. "Usually ideas are not in short supply, implementers are."

A generic call for proposals was held to generate project ideas. Out of 42 ideas, 19 projects, focusing on the use of technology and geoscience to profile the area and locate mineral rich sites, were chosen under the Discover Abitibi program.

Discover Abitibi is also intended to fill knowledge gaps and try new innovations, she explains.

Keast and Marinig were leading forces in attracting government funding towards the initiative, as well as stakeholder support. FedNor and the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund contributed $10 million towards Discover Abitibi, while the private sector contributed the remaining funds.

Marinig has been instrumental in diversifying the Timmins economy, bringing in new industry, simply by believing that the city had the capacity to attract various industries.

One such success story is the TeleTech call centre in Timmins. With 850 employees at present, and another 100 expected to be hired in the near future, TeleTech has provided a much-needed boost in job creation for the city, she says.

"We started to work on marketing our location for a telecommunications facility," she says.

Call centres play a significant role in economic development in northern cities.

"Based on the Sudbury model of success, we continued to market the benefits for TeleTech to move into Timmins," Marinig says.

"It really is the belief that, if other communities can (attract a call centre), then we can do it as well. We make sure we have the infrastructure in place and the skill set needed."

In the case of TeleTech, community partners were also a vital link in attracting the business to Timmins. In this case, Northern College was able to offer training for call centres, she adds.

Neighbouring towns have turned to Marinig for input into call centre attraction.

"There were a couple of communities in our area that asked us how we went about attracting the call centre," she says. "One thing I think is important in economic development in the North is to share information. It's good for the North and it's good for all economies. When it comes to call centres, we had the ability to share information to shorten their learning curve."

The city has also capitalized on its natural resources, including cold weather, and Marinig has worked hard at establishing a strong relationship with officials at Toyota's cold weather testing facility in Timmins.

Having opened its doors in 1998, the cold weather facility continues to operate in Timmins and has attracted engineers from the United States and Canada, as well as Japan.

"We have had tremendous success in our testing in Timmins," says James W. Griffith, vice-president, administration and legal, vice-president, materials engineeing for Toyota. "This is due to the tremendous support we receive from Timmins Economic Development Corp., and more specifically, from Christy (Marinig). She is always there for us when we need her support and quite frankly, our jobs would be more difficult without her to assist us."

With most major corporations locating to the south, Marinig says the North must first become more attractive in order to draw attention away from its southern counterparts.

"We have a limited population in the area," she says. "The better your infrastructure, the more attractive it is for larger corporations."

"If there are shortcomings, we have to get these things fixed."

Marinig is also project leader for Timmins' Community Strategic Plan: Building Our Future, with a primary role of attracting funding for the strategic plans, and chair of NEOnet, a regional telecom and IT development organization.

By SARI HUHTALA

Northern Ontario Busienss
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Title Annotation:2004 Winner; Timmins Economic Development Corp.
Author:Huhtala, Sari
Publication:Northern Ontario Business
Geographic Code:1CONT
Date:Jun 1, 2004
Words:866
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