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Economic transition challenges local residents.

Recovery under way Elliot Lake

Elliot Lake is beginning to show signs of recovery, say the city's economic development officials.

However, they admit that the next five years will be a difficult period of transition, with local residents either leaving or retraining to fit into life in the new Elliot Lake.

Approximately 3,450 mining jobs have been lost in the community, resulting in the additional loss of 2,760 jobs in the service and mining support sectors and of $280 million in economic activity.

However, Diana Bratina, Elliot Lake's economic development officer, says these losses have been offset by the city's retirement living program.


"It has been our most successful program. They (retirees) are buying our houses and they have sustained the local retail market," Bratina says.

About 2,000 retirees have moved into the community, and the number is expected to reach 4,000 by 1994.

The retirement living program is one of three growth areas identified by a five-year plan written by consultants Marshall, Macklin, Monoghan Limited in 1990. The others are tourism and health care.

Health care services will be a growth industry as more retirees move to Elliot Lake, says Alex Berthelot, chairman of the Elliot Lake Economic Development Commission.

The program has already created opportunities for home care providers such as the Victorian Order of Nurses, and the city is now seeking funds to construct the East Algoma Seniors Campus, which would provide one-stop health care and social services for retirees.

A healthy tourism industry could account for 20 per cent of Elliot Lake's economic activity, predict the city's economic development officials.

Projects proposed by the city include a $3-million expansion of the local ski hill, construction of a new $1-million welcome centre on Hwy. 17, a $250,000 upgrading of the local golf course and a cottage lot development along the north shore of Elliot Lake.

The province committed $550,000 to turn a fire tower east of the city into a tourist attraction. Work is ongoing on a scenic trail, called the Deer Trail, which will connect Elliot Lake to Mississagi Provincial Park and Iron Bridge.

To further stabilize the local economy, the city has set a goal of obtaining 500 government positions. Approximately 25 per cent of these have been committed in the form of the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines' abandoned mines research division, a Ministry of Transportation training centre and a Laurentian University field research centre.

The city is bidding for a proposed French-language college and has proposed being the site for a northern campus of the Ontario College of Art or an energy education centre.

However, Bratina insists that the city is not relying solely on government jobs and the retirement living program.

"We are not ignoring industry," she says. "The problem is the economic climate."

Bratina's office recently conducted a survey of the 50 largest businesses in Elliot Lake to determine what types of products and services they require that cannot be purchased locally. The exercise was used to identify opportunities for new or existing companies.

Elliot Lake has a $35-million development fund to encourage investment in business. The money was provided as part of the $250-million compensation package from Ontario Hydro.

However, of that money $10 million has been set aside for the French language college and $1.1 million for the Ontario College of Art campus.
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Title Annotation:Elliot Lake, Ontario
Author:Brown, Stewart
Publication:Northern Ontario Business
Date:Jul 1, 1992
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