Investing in our Economy
I remember a time when industries were booming and it seemed like jobs were a dime a dozen. My dad worked for CN Rail and as a child, when we would drive out Rosslyn Road to pick him up from work, there were two city buses collecting railroaders and the parking lot was full. By the time he retired in 1996, there were maybe a dozen cars left in the parking lot. As Bob Dylan sang “The times they are a- changin…..”
While much like Canada, Thunder Bay has experienced a decline in manufacturing jobs. That’s not to say it’s a dead sector as we still continue to see some activity on this front especially with light rail cars in production at Bombardier. There are also smaller manufacturing companies building unique products that fill certain niche markets. I believe that the smaller companies are where we need to dedicate our time and effort to support. Creating a cluster of employers by smaller based companies ensures that our community can withstand shifts in the marketplace. Relying on large based companies that employ a lot of people makes us vulnerable should the company have a reduction in employment. We must continue to build an economy that is diverse and can withstand a shift in demand on the global market.
From 2004 to 2010, I worked as the policy assistant in the mayor’s office. Those were tough times especially with the collapse of the forest industry. Recognizing that the economy of Thunder Bay was very dependent on natural resources, a decision was made to pull community partners together and identify ways to diversify the economy. From this the Mayor’s Health Sector Task Force was created. The Task Force was the driver in creating the Thunder Bay Regional Research Institute (TBRRI). TBRRI is an innovative, facility that has attracted world-class researchers and has contributed millions of dollars to Thunder Bay’s economy. These types of investments attract talented and educated people and are good paying jobs. The spin-off economy also strengthens as it requires people to build homes, fix cars, and enhance the retail market as well.
Even though Thunder Bay has successfully expanded the economy beyond natural resources, given our location, we still need to nurture and grow the sector. With relatively inexpensive land available, there are many opportunities to support the mining sector in Thunder Bay. There are upwards of 25 mines that are working towards extracting an abundance of natural resources out of the ground. More specifically, the region anticipates four new gold mines will be in production within the next few years and six new mines will be developed immediately after 2020. There is continued advanced exploration on upwards of 13 other projects, many of which will mature to production as new mines. Thunder Bay could easily be a service centre to support mining. With access to rail and ships, we must capitalize on being a transportation hub and do what we can to provide gainful employment.
As the largest city in Northwestern Ontario, we have a lot of opportunities to grow. I am committed to making Thunder Bay a community that is attractive to investors, employers and talented workers.