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Tool gauges economic impact of industry changes.

How would the closing of a mill in Iroquois Falls affect spending in Timmins, and how would it affect Ontario's economy?

These are the very questions a new economic impact-modeling program is designed to answer.

The Regional Community Constellation Impact Model is intended to "develop a model for a number of communities and have it up and running on a Web-based format so individual communities could go in and do some economic analysis for the individual communities," says Abitibi Model Forest general manager Suzanne Parton. "It also shows impacts linking with surrounding towns."

The model was developed with the co-operation of Timmins, Hearst, Kapuskasing, Cochrane, Iroquois Falls, as well as the Abitibi Model-Forest and Tembec and is available to them through a protected Web site. The model is currently undergoing an expansion to include a link to the Moose Cree First Nations. Econometric Research Ltd. of Brampton and McMaster economics professor Dr. Atis Kubursi developed the model's software.

The model answers a number of questions about the economic impact of new, commercial development, challenges experienced by existing industries and the development of new industries. Specifically, it can answer such questions as the impact of a plant closure on anything from spending habits in local stores to house purchases and renovations to the effects on local crime rates and compare those results with the other partnering community.

"That's the key," says Parton. "Before, there was no way to assess how something in Timmins could affect spending in Hearst. Now, the communities linked in can assess where the money is being spent and can assess how a mill shutdown in Timmins will affect Cochrane."

The model was made available to the partners in late December 2003 and will be updated every year for the next five years. Developed at a cost of $250,000, the model is being further revised to include tourism and hunting and fishing sectors and several sub sectors.

"We spurred the development of this back in 1993 so it's been around at least 10 years," Parton says, adding the original model only incorporated Cochrane and Iroquois Falls. "At the time, there were models simply for each community and there was no ability to link them. We were there to assist the communities with sustainable development because that is part of our mandate."

Parton says the original model accurately predicted the results of the shutting down of an Abitibi Consolidated machine closure in Iroquois Falls. Most recently, it has been helpful for the Moose Cree First Nations when they were negotiating sustainable forest licensing with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources.

"(The latest model) has been a very useful tool," says Timmins economic development officer Clara Lauziere. "Where we see the value of this is in the analysis of projects ... this is a tool, we have, to encourage projects that will have the biggest impact."

Parton says the utility of the model is drawing attention from other municipalities. The province is also looking at it for such uses as sustainable land-use planning.

"It's a tool like any other. It's there to assist you; not to make the decisions for you," Parton says.

www.lamf.net

By ANDREW WAREING

Northern Ontario Business
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Title Annotation:Timmins Report
Author:Wareing, Andrew
Publication:Northern Ontario Business
Geographic Code:1CONT
Date:Feb 1, 2004
Words:532
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