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Steady growth of retail sector predicted by chamber president.

Steady growth of retail sector predicted by chamber president

There has been rapid growth in the retail sector in Timmins over the past few years.

However, there have also been notable closures, such as the S.S. Kresge store and one of two A&P groceries in the city.

All in all, business leaders are viewing the changes as being more positive than negative.

"You always have businesses coming and going," says Larry Brooksbank, president of the Timmins Chamber of Commerce.

Brooksbank doesn't believe the recent changes have been more significant than those of previous years.

"Timmins seems to be a city of turnover," he says.

Brooksbank explains much of the changes in the retail sector are "name changes."

Judging from new memberships taken out with the chamber over the past few years, Brooksbank says he has noticed an "awful lot" of chain stores coming to Northern Ontario.

"That's a good sign because it means people have an awful lot of faith in Northern Ontario," he says.

"There is a fair amount of faith in our municipality by more than the people who live here," he says.

Timmins is becoming a service centre for northeastern Ontario, he says. "Year by year, I think we're getting to that point."

Brooksbank says there is room for retail expansion, even though the population of the city has not expanded dramatically.

"I think Timmins was underserviced for a number of years," he admits.

The chamber president says that economic growth in the city hinges to a great degree on the health of the mining industry, where the word now is rationalization.

"I don't think we'll see a Toronto style of growth, but steady growth," Brooksbank says.

That sort of growth is easier to deal with, he adds

Mayor Dennis Welin agrees there has been much growth in the retail sector, pointing to the new Canadian Tire and new grocery stores as prime examples.

"There's been a lot of dollars spent on retail," Welin says.

And he notes that, while Kresge's is being phased out, the space has been acquired by the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce

"The downtown is virtually 100-per-cent occupied," he says.

The mayor is satisfied with the city's retail growth.

"We have become one of the major service centres in Northern Ontario," he comments.

Barb Reynolds, executive manager of the Downtown Timmins Business Improvement Area, does not think the changes are negatively affecting her members, although she is sorry to see Kresge's closing.

She is not worried about competition for the downtown from new strip malls opening in the city, such as one on Algonquin Boulevard West and another near the Timmins Square.

She considers anything opening in the city as competition to BIA members.

However, Reynolds says the downtown retail sector has not really been challenged. "Most of my members think they have to look ahead and keep up with their service."

She notes that the downtown vacancy rate is very low, with just two stores empty (the old Sears outlet and a former coin store), but already rented by other businesses.

PHOTO : The downtown core of Timmins isn't threatened by new malls and chain stores, says the BIA president.
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Title Annotation:Timmins Report; Timmins Chamber of Commerce; Larry Brooksbank
Author:Bickford, Paul
Publication:Northern Ontario Business
Date:Aug 1, 1990
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