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Economic strategy to be written by city.

New chief administrative officer hired

Thunder Bay Mayor David Hamilton is taking the recommendations of a report on Northwestern Ontario's economy to heart.

According to the report, entitled The Economy of Northwestern Ontario: Structure, Performance and Future Challenges, the region's economic fortunes will continue to slide unless a comprehensive development strategy is implemented.

The report was commissioned by Thunder Bay Ventures, with funding from the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines. It was written by three professors of the economics department at Lakehead University, Witold Jankowski, Bahram Dadgostar and Bakhtiar Moazzami.

In their conclusion, the authors say: "The economy of northwestern Ontario is under severe pressure. The problems are not merely cyclical, but of a more fundamental nature. The full impact of the decline in the export sector has not yet been fully felt. The economic fundamentals suggest a continuing slide in the economic fortunes of the region."

"I agree fundamentally with their findings," Hamilton says, adding that the city plans to follow the report's recommendation and draft an economic diversification strategy.

"We have lots of plans and studies, but we don't have a game plan," the mayor explains.

Hamilton says the report emphasizes the need for municipal governments to lead the way. Thunder Bay's recent hiring of Bruce Thom as chief administrative officer is the beginning.

Thom was the City of Mississauga's manager and has a lot of expertise in long-range community planning, Hamilton says.

Hamilton admits that Thunder Bay must look beyond its traditional industries of forestry and shipping.

"The northwest has sustained its economy on resource extraction, which traditionally have yielded high-paying jobs. Because of a changing economy, there are less jobs and they pay less," he explains.

"We have to do everything we can to ensure that there are jobs to maintain the lifestyle we enjoy," adds Hamilton. "We are losing our young people. We have to put in place job opportunities to keep them here."

The development of a diversified base of small-scale manufacturing is one of the primary goals of the Thunder Bay Economic Development Corporation.

The corporation has focused its efforts on attracting investment from Singapore, says general manager Dick Charbonneau.

"Thunder Bay is the first city to be twinned with a city in that area. Now there is a special relationship with the Singapore government," says Charbonneau.

The corporation's efforts to attract new investment from the Far East paid off in 1991 with the opening of Leo Sakata Electronics (Canada) Ltd. and Earnway Industries (Canada) Ltd. The plants have a combined employment forecast of 150 to 160 employees.

The corporation is currently investigating 10 additional prospects in the electronic and consumer industries.

"We have had some initial success and feel there is growth in these areas," Charbonneau says.

Hamilton, meanwhile, is encouraged that the city is implementing a new tourism enhancement strategy. However, he cautions that tourism should not be viewed as a replacement for lost jobs in the forestry and shipping industries.
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Title Annotation:Thunder Bay, Ontario
Author:Brown, Stewart
Publication:Northern Ontario Business
Date:Aug 1, 1992
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