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Northwestern development groups discuss the region's future.

Northwestern development groups discuss the region's future

For the first time four distinct economic development organizations in northwestern Ontario have met to discuss their common tasks.

The conference, held from Sept. 13 to 15 in Dryden, was attended by representatives of the region's Community Futures programs, business development centres, community industrial training committees and 18 economic development offices.

"The focus was not so much specific opportunities, but more along the lines of thinking ahead," explained Jim Dayman, the economic development officer with the Dryden Economic Development Commission.

The approximately 90 delegates learned about sustainable development, the significance of an aging population and the loss of young people to southern Ontario.

The delegates were addressed by guest speakers from Manitoba and Ottawa and from the provincial government.

Dayman said the guest speakers encouraged provocative thinking and challenged the delegates to provide leadership.

"The common consensus was that many people can manage, but few people can lead," he commented.

The keynote address was given by Terry Platana, a Dryden lawyer and chairman of the provincial Royal Commission into Indian Fishing.

Platana spoke on leadership and futuristic thinking.

David Foot, a professor of economics at the University of Toronto, spoke about the aging population and youth migration.

Dayman explained that each age group has specific priorities which affect consumer spending patterns and the retail, service and tourism sectors.

For example, he noted that, with an aging population, contact sports may not be as popular in 10 years. Instead, he said, hiking and bird-watching may increase in popularity. For community planners that may mean designing more green space and walking paths.

Dayman noted that he acquired new skills at the conference which he will apply to his duties in Dryden. He is currently studying the demographics of the town to see what the future may bring.

Meanwhile, conference speaker Leo Prince, director of the Manitoba Department of Rural Development, discussed the role of community development.

Tom Owens, a leader in community development in Winnipeg, addressed the issue of motivating a community and mobilizing its resources.

Bob Michels, general manager of the Atikokan Economic Development Corporation, led a net-working session.

Peter Kilburn, president and CEO of the International Institute for Sustainable Development in Winnipeg, spoke on business opportunities in sustainable development.

And Margaret Wanlin, manager of regional development and administration at Quetico Centre in Atikokan, dealt with strategic thinking.

Dayman said there was also discussion concerning the "chasing the smokestack" attitude towards development, which he described as looking for the one big industry for economic salvation.

He noted that 80 per cent of all new business is created by firms already existing in a community, and is usually tied to existing resources.

It is very difficult to attract new, large industries, he said, adding that those attending the conference were already well aware of that fact.

The conference was entitled Dynamic Community Development. It was similar to one held in January for all of Northern Ontario which was entitled Preparing for the `90s.

Following that meeting in Thunder Bay, Dayman said, "We felt we needed to narrow it down some."

Northwestern and northeastern Ontario therefore have had their own separate conferences.

Dayman said more focus was needed, because opportunities and problems are not the same in all parts of Northern Ontario. For example, he said forestry is the most important industry in Dryden, while mining is prominent in Sudbury.

While the conference was the first of its type in the northwest, it will not be the last.

"These sessions will continue on a regular basis," Dayman said, adding that a formal system must be created to follow up on the benefits.

However, that does not mean a new organization will be created. Dayman said a good working relationship must be established among the various organizations which participated in the conference.

There will also be a committee set up to develop the next conference.

One conference will be held for all of Northern Ontario each year, along with two others for the northeast and northwest.

The next Northern Ontario-wide conference in scheduled for April in Sault Ste. Marie.

Funding for the conferences is supplied by the delegates, the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines and corporate sponsors.
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Title Annotation:Ontario, Canada
Author:Bickford, Paul
Publication:Northern Ontario Business
Date:Oct 1, 1990
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