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Councillor calls for convention centre.

As the City of Greater Sudbury moves towards being a health-care leader, a centre for government, as well as an important international mining cluster, the necessity of positioning ourselves for the future with solid long-term planning has become more urgent than ever.

Considering the recent private-sector growth that our city has been experiencing, it is not a great leap to extrapolate the need for a first-class conference and convention centre. Such a project has been on the books for as long as I can remember, but never seems to materialize. Such a facility would be a ready symbol we are ready and able to play on the world stage as the largest centre in Northern Ontario. It would demonstrate this, not only to each other and to our friends in Northern Ontario, but to the world beyond our borders. The key is to begin preparing now, by cobbling together the required public-private partnerships and political will.

If we want to compete for the economic benefits that accrue from having more visitors come to Sudbury, and if we want to market ourselves as a world-class city, then we must think seriously about having a venue that promotes businesses and industries, and invites the world to Sudbury for executive-class meetings and conferences.

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We cannot continue to say that we are open for business. We have had to turn away important convention business for lack of a large enough venue several times recently. A multi-purpose facility, complete with convention and conference centre, trade show space and soft-seat auditorium, would be an excellent investment in our community as we strive to grow our city and take advantage of the economic window of opportunity which is being driven by the mining and the health industries. Existing facilities simply do not do our city justice.

Ian Wood, co-ordinator for tourism and marketing for the city, agrees.

"It is a regular occurrence for us to initiate discussions with an organization and then have to bow out because we don't have appropriate space," he says. "Just a few examples in the last 12 months include the General Motors New Vehicle Launch, a Liberal Party of Canada (Ontario) function and the Assembly of First Nations National Conference with elections."

"Expanding our facilities to permit larger conferences of 500 to 750, and aggressively seeking out such business, could result in ten to twelve large events each year, with a combined economic impact of between $15 and $30 million," Wood adds. "This type of facility presents an opportunity for growth and increased business."

There are those who will argue our physical infrastructure must be repaired first and must remain a priority. While I certainly agree with this position, we must be looking ahead to the social infrastructure of our city as well.

The benefits are many. Such a convention centre would inject millions of dollars into our city each year and showcase our city to better compete in the areas of business attraction and in-migration. It would support local event marketing companies and the associated services they require, while creating employment. The presence of those influential groups of people who can help put us on the national and international radar screen would reinforce our image-building and branding efforts. And, best of all, it would build civic pride and improve our quality of life, from both a business and cultural perspective.

While enhancing our beautification efforts, a centre that is strategically located would easily promote spinoff developments such as art galleries, tourist attractions, cafes, restaurants, residential areas and retail establishments.

As Sudburians and proud Northerners, we deserve nothing less.

As the motto of the City of Greater Sudbury says, Aedificemus--let us build.

Lynne Reynolds is a Councillor for the City of Greater Sudbury and the owner of Community Connections, an event marketing company.

www.greatersudbury.ca
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Title Annotation:SPECIAL REPORT: CONFERENCE, CONVENTION & EVENT PLANNING
Author:Reynolds, Lynne
Publication:Northern Ontario Business
Geographic Code:1CONT
Date:Aug 1, 2005
Words:636
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