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Hydro project has power to create 250 jobs.

Hearing that economic development is the number one priority for Timmins city council was music to Dave McGirr's ears. A plan outlined predominantly be the Timmins Economic Development Corp. (TEDC) is an integral part of the overall growth for the city and region, says Chair McGirr.

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Mining is the mainstay of the Timmins area, but exploring education opportunities, energy needs, retail potential and technology infrastructure will only enhance the city's private sector with the promise of new jobs and secondary spinoffs, he argues.

The De Beers Victor Mine project is highly anticipated to create opportunity in the Timmins area. An interim agreement was reached last November that allowed De Beers to push forward in bringing the diamond mine to production.

De Beers hopes to receive approval for the environmental assessment in the first quarter of 2005 as well as permits to operate in mid-year in advance of a construction phase in 2006. It is expected after the permits and benefit agreements have been finalized with Attawapiskat First Nation, De Beers will employ up to 1,100 during the construction phase and create approximately 380 permanent positions once the mine is open.

It will cost $880 million to get the project up and running. During operations, De Beers will spend about $100 million a year. The cumulative impact on the province's gross domestic product is estimated at about $7 billion, including $4.2 billion in northeastern Ontario alone.

"We will give De Beers any help they want," McGirr says.

"Victor Mine is crucial for northeastern Ontario."

In order to prepare for industry needs, De Beers and other resource partners such as Placer Dome Inc., Tembec Inc. and Luzenac Inc. are collaborating with northeastern municipalities and northern post-secondary schools to deliver skilled trades programs. The project, dubbed Oneu, is expected to go through a feasibility stage where representatives from the education sector will identify what specific skills can be provided and what is needed for industry to continue moving smoothly. An application for funding support has been submitted to FedNor.

Northeastern Ontario is considered by many to be the richest area for mineral deposits in the world, according to McGirr. The Discover Abitibi project, for example, is still attracting a lot of attention.

The $13-million geoscience project is taking place specifically in the Timmins and Kirkland Lake corridor. Presently, 12 out of 19 sophisticated geoscience studies have been completed and the released information gave way to 13,000 claims. The hope is to find more major mineral deposits in the vicinity.

Hydro projects revs up

Moose Cree First Nation, Tembec Inc. and SNC-Lavalin are urging Timmins council to put pressure on the provincial ministries and associations to direct Ontario Power Generation in negotiating an additional 384 megawatts of clean electricity on the Mattagami River, worth an estimated $600,000. An increase of power is necessary to meet project deadlines.

"I know the provincial government is seriously looking at this," McGirr says.

This kind of project has the potential to create 250 construction jobs through contracts worth millions of dollars.

Aside from resource-based industries, Timmins is doing their best to attract at least five to 10 retail stores to the area in the next two years. Already the department is courting seven companies as a result of a marketing blitz, where 126 packages were sent out across North America. They are currently negotiating with a regional firm that has ties to northwestern Quebec and northeastern Ontario.

"We are looking at the potential for synergies here."

From stores to storage

After trying their hand at attracting retail stores, the TEDC is seeking companies that would be interested in setting up a data storage centre in the city. City representatives visited various data storage centres inside and outside the north and agreed they could offer space to interested companies. They designed market information highlighting the benefits of site location in Timmins.

What the city does now will have a great impact on the long-term health of Timmins, Mayor Vic Power says. New companies will bring new people to the city.

"We know we are on the right track and things are going to happen."

By KELLY LOUISEIZE

Northern Ontario Business
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Title Annotation:SPECIAL REPORT: TIMMINS
Author:Louiseize, Kelly
Publication:Northern Ontario Business
Geographic Code:1CONT
Date:Feb 1, 2005
Words:697
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