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On the waterfront.

Selkirk is about to take some very large developmental steps

SELKIRK: A NICE PLACE TO LIVE, MAYBE EVEN WORK? BUT WOULD YOU REALLY WANT to visit there? Selkirk development officials are betting big bucks that Selkirk, one of Manitoba's fastest-growing communities, can attract more tourists. And, providing there is willingness on the province's part to underwrite a GROW bond issue, Selkirk could be welcoming visitors in style as soon as 1993.

What is planned is a $5.5 million waterfront development which will include a rural conference centre, 55-room hotel and a separate senior citizens' residence to be built by Kiwanis.

Stefano Grande, economic development co-ordinator for Triple S (Selkirk, St. Andrews, St. Clements) Business Development Corporation, says there is hope more development will follow if the hotel project proceeds. "We hope the hotel will be a catalyst for development," he says. "In fact, we hope the project will act as a catalyst for the revitalization of our entire downtown."

The hotel will be the centrepiece of the development in a community which currently has only 35 hotel rooms for guests. Grande cautions against the use of the term, "hotel." "We prefer to call it the 'urban resort'. That's because we're trying to avoid some of the connotations of the word hotel" -- beverage rooms, vendors -- that type of thing.

"The community is very excited about this," Grande adds. "Personally, I think when the GROW bonds are issued the public will snap them right up."

The hotel will be at the centre of the waterfront development and will be offered to investors with a proposed return. The project is headed by John Danoon, an engineer who lives in Selkirk.

Says Danoon, "There is a really good market for additional rooms in Selkirk. With some marketing we can bring a lot of business here."

The entire waterfront project, which will include roughly three kilometres of walkways, will take its name from Selkirk pioneer, William Robinson. Hence the name "Robinson Harbour." Robinson, notes Grande, was a famed river captain during the post-Confederation era. He is credited with mobilizing Selkirk settlers, circa 1878, to improve local services.
Selkirk at a Glance
Population: 29,400
(Total: Selkirk, St. Andrews, St. Clements)
Selkirk 10,000
St. Andrews 12,500
St. Clements 6,900
Average Office Lease Costs (sq. ft.): Range -- $6 - $16
Average Manufacturing Wages: Range -- $10 - $12 hourly
Average Clerical Wages: Range -- $5.80 - 7.90 hourly
Regional Unemployment Rate: 7.1 per cent
Average House Price: Three-room bungalow $90,000 - $105,000
Source: Triple S Development Centre

According to Greg Paquin, general manager of Triple S Development Corporation, Robinson Harbour is emblematic of the new thrust in the region's development. "In the past, growth was pretty hit and miss. We're taking a new aggressive approach to more focused growth with attention to niche and specific industries."

In terms of the Robinson Harbour development, the municipality is taking the lead by contributing land and assisting with financing.

Paquin hopes tourism and its retail spinoffs will be a major component in the Triple S area's growth. In saying so, he points to recent trends. Many households are lost to the two other Triple S communities. Paquin attributes the loss of retail business to Selkirk's proximity to Winnipeg.

Where there is growth, he says, is in the service and industrial sectors. (The most recent Triple S business directory, for instance, boasts a 21 per cent increase in listings compared to the 1989 edition.) In that context, Paquin has no shortage of enthusiasm for the Robinson Harbour development. "I think if I were to put an adjective to it, the adjective would be 'great'. The project will make a great difference to this community," says Paquin. "It will be an anchor for the whole waterfront and will attract a lot of development."

The aggressive approach to attracting business doesn't begin and end with Robinson Harbour. Paquin points to The Window Factory (Manitoba) Ltd., one of many Triple S success stories.

The Window Factory, which makes window frames, rose from the ashes left by the January 1990 receivership of Beaton Industries Ltd. of Winnipeg. Today, The Window Factory employs 17 people (including six partners who are former employees of bankrupt Beaton) and is projecting sales in the $700,000 range for 1992. Everett 'Red' Hill, the company president, says that this year is slow because of the economic downturn.

Says Hill, "Our first year we figured would be a slow year. We had already missed the summer season." (Between June '91 and April '92 The Window Factory managed sales of $460,000.)

Hill anticipates 1993 will see an upswing in the business. The firm can now compete in sales of PVC (polyvinylchloride) frames: state-of-the-art in window installation technology.

Hill can't say enough about the advantages of doing business in Selkirk. "The rental area costs in Selkirk about 50 per cent of what we would have to pay in Winnipeg," he says. Hill says in Selkirk shop space is about $2 per square foot, plus tax and insurance. In Winnipeg the costs are $4.95, plus, plus. Commercial office space is going for about $4 per square foot. Comparable office space in Winnipeg would come to $6.95 plus taxation. "We're pretty competitive," says Hill. "It makes us more competitive."

Today Hill, 61, and his wife Mabel, 46, herself an accountant for The Window Factory, make their home in Selkirk. How does the former Winnipeg couple find Selkirk now that they've lingered longer than a visit? "We like it. We like it a lot."
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Title Annotation:Selkirk, Manitoba tourism
Author:Mockler, Brian H.L.
Publication:Manitoba Business
Date:Dec 1, 1992
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