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City unveils new development strategy.

Some of the goals of Focus '92 have been carried over

North Bay has started writing a new chapter in the evolution of the city's economy.

The city's economic development officials have penned a new strategic plan, Focus '95, which contains industrial land development policies, targets for attracting and retaining industry and plans of action for meeting the targets.

The strategy also emphasizes continued development of the existing business community and municipal infrastructure, as well as maintaining the quality of life required to attract new industry and business to the city.

"We are particularly pursuing job creation in the environmental and knowledge areas. We are also going to ensure the maintenance and expansion of the jobs and industry we already have," stresses Stephen Sajatovic, North Bay's director of planning and development.

Sajatovic explains that the new strategic plan is a continuation of Focus '92, a document which was written in 1988.

While he admits that not all of the goals contained in Focus '92 were achieved, Sajatovic describes the results as a "roaring success."

"The greatest success of Focus '92 was that it was a blueprint for action. It was a document that resulted in a co-ordinated community effort. We've seen an investment in the community," says Sajatovic.

Mayor Stan Lawlor believes the economy of North Bay is stable, but the strategy still needs to be renewed.

"In Focus '92 we set out some goals and what intervened was an economic downturn. Now you still have to look at it (the plan) and the resilience of North Bay," Lawlor says.

The principal goal of Focus '92 was to attract new investment to the city, while strengthening North Bay's existing economic base, quality of life and natural environment.

Focus '92 also identified the need to find new products and market opportunities for existing North Bay businesses.

Several North Bay firms, including Shadwood Enterprises Ltd., Nortek Computers Ltd., Rahnmet Inc., and Fabrene Inc. now export their products to the U.S. and Europe, and Sajatovic notes that North Bay is attracting investment from the Pacific Rim.

"We are working with a number of markets, particularly off-shore markets," says Sajatovic. "We are also examining the whole area of public-sector purchasing and working with many sectors of the federal government. We are spending a lot of time in that area."

The creation of the Nipissing-Parry Sound Small Business Self Help Office was part of the city's plan to create employment from within the community.

"Part of the goal was to encourage investment. I am confident there is an attitude of entrepreneurship because there are so many people taking advantage of entrepreneurial programs," says Lawlor, who is particularly pleased with the number of projects started under the New Ventures program.

New department stores and food stores, hospitality and service facilities and a convention centre were also identified in Focus '92 as priorities for business development.

The hospitality sector has recently seen substantial investment with the addition of new Venture Inn, Journey's End and Relax Inn hotels as well as the renovation of the Empire Hotel.

While that investment is expected to continue with the announced construction of a Days Inn hotel, the city has yet to realize its goal of a major convention centre.

The retail sector, meanwhile, is healthy, according to Downtown Improvement Area (DIA) manager Brenda Corbeil. She supports this claim by noting that the vacancy rate for retail space in the downtown is only seven per cent.

"We are in pretty good shape and have very few vacancies," Corbeil comments.

The local DIA has a mix of 60 per cent retail and 40 per cent professional services.
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Copyright 1992, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:North Bay Report; North Bay, Ontario
Author:Brown, Stewart
Publication:Northern Ontario Business
Date:Jul 1, 1992
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