Council and Chamber to Further Discuss Building New Strategy for Economic Development & Tourism Offices

The future of the tourism industry in Northwestern Ontario and its possible effects on the Atikokan area was the topic of discussion at the regular meeting of council held Tuesday evening, February 28, at Quetico Centre.

At the council meeting the issue of the township continuing its funding of the tourism office was discussed in detail. Several members of council supported a recommendation of the Finance Committee, that the township cease funding the office because of a lack of contributions from private sector. Council is required to give tourism Co-ordinator Robin Stuart , 90 days notice on the termination of his contract and provincial and private sector funding is available until Sept. 30, 1983.

“Nobody but the township has so far come up with money for the office and I suggest the township protect itself,” said councillor Rodger. “If we wish to be within the terms of the agreement we must realize it is going to cost the township more money,” said Councillor Alf Allinil. “You must remember this is only a proposal and is private funding becomes available, we can always change it back.”

Reeve Dennis Brown said no firm decision should be made immediately because private funding may still be available. “We should ask the AID (Atikokan Industrial Development) Committee to see if they can come up with some money.”

Brown said other alternatives should also be considered. “What about the possibility of having half-time tourism co-ordinator or the possibility of combining of two jobs under the same office.”

Council then agreed to give the AID Committee a month to canvass local businesses for funding to continue the operation of the Tourism Office.

At the special meeting held at Quetico Centre, Cliff McIntosh, president of the facility, presented some information obtained from an economic forecaster, John Kettle during a special seminar at the centre last week on the future of tourism and its impact on the economy,” said McIntosh, “up until the end of World War II when it became an industrial nation. According to the information provided by Mr. Kettle, our economy is going through another major change to a service oriented economy.” McIntosh hen displayed some data collected on the profitability of the mining and forestry sectors, the two industries which have dominated the local economy.

McIntosh said the area in which Atikokan should specialize in is the tourism sector. “There are very few areas like this in the world. We have a unique wilderness area and we should be taking advantage of it.”

“What we are seeing is the emergence of a new type of tourist wanting different types of experiences. We must still go after the sports-men (hunters and fishermen) but there are a lot of outdoor experiences we could development for a worldwide market. We should go after tourists from Europe or Japan and other parts of Asia.”

Vik Prokopchuk, a member of the Quetico Centre Board of Directors discussed the similarities of the problems facing Atikokan now and those faces during the period before Caland and Steep Rock Iron Mines were closed. “Back in 1973 when the Atikokan Industrial Development (AID) Committee was formed after it was announced the mines were going to close,” said Prokopchuk, “Atikokan was preparing for a change in its economic base. It has been ten years since the committee was formed and I think it is time we re-examined our goals and modify our plans for the future.  What we need to do is some long range planning for the future of Atikokan; a statement of what kind of town we want to live in.”

Jim Clark, owner of Canoe Canada outfitters, agreed with the sentiment expressed by some participants that full use was not being made of the potential tourism sector in the area. “Quetico Park is a world class resort area and yet it is not being managed consistently we are not getting the turnover in dollars we should.”

Councillor Earl Rodger expressed the importance of co-ordinating projects within the town and seeking support from various groups. “Many organizations, such as the Royal Canadian legion and the Kiwanis sponsor their own activities and we can’t go interfering with them because it will be impossible to replace the volunteer who make the events work.”

Councillor Morrison said it might be necessary to redefine the responsibilities of the Economic Development Office and the Tourism Office and perhaps combine the two areas under one office.

Reeve Brown said the timing of these discussions was important because as the tourism expanded across all Northwestern Ontario, competition might develop with other communities in the region. “It is a good thing that we are looking at these questions now,” said Brown.

The group concluded the meeting with a consensus that the issues dealt with were important and a second meeting should be held to examine in more detail possible development strategies.

March 2, 1983
Atikokan Progress