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2013 Communities of Opportunity: Sioux Lookout

Sioux Lookout richly deserves its moniker as the 'Hub of the North.
Sioux Lookout, Ontario.

Sioux Lookout richly deserves its moniker as the 'Hub of the North.'

Located halfway between Thunder Bay and Winnipeg, and north of the Trans-Canada Highway, Sioux Lookout sits on the shores of Lac Seul, Pelican and Abrams lakes with the rugged Canadian Shield as its backdrop.

The northwestern Ontario municipality boasts a culturally-diverse population of 5,500 and provides essential services to 30,000 people in 29 remote First Nations.

Relationships with First Nations communities have taken off in the last year, with Sioux Lookout signing a friendship accord with both Lac Seul First Nation and Slate Falls First Nation.

The friendship accord sets to improve communication, partnership development and economic development opportunities.

“It really just solidified the desire to work together,” said Florence Bailey, economic development officer for Sioux Lookout. “How we will treat each other with respect, trust and dignity. How we will move forward together on several special projects.”

Following the signing, they began to meet on a regular basis to further develop a specific list of common interests, which includes education, youth, sports, tourism, special events and shared services such as public works and emergency services.

“One of the things we've been hearing over the years is that it takes work to develop a relationship,” said Bailey. “You can't just sign a friendship accord and expect the relationship to stay intact. You have to work on it. That's where we've been putting a lot of our efforts.

The Sioux Lookout Municipal Airport is also one of Ontario's busiest with approximately 125,000 passengers on an annual basis.

The airport also serves as a vital aviation gateway by providing access to and from domestic and international centres.

“A lot of that growth is related to First Nation travel in and out of the Far North,” said Bailey.

In all, the area has been on a major growth curve with $250 million in capital projects recently completed, including a new state-of-the-art hospital, the redevelopment of the Heritage Train Station, downtown revitalization projects, an airport expansion, and an increase in serviced residential, commercial and industrial land.

With a few acres of prime land being developed in the downtown core, the municipality is currently seeking proposals for commercial development.

Recently, a Tim Hortons owned by Lac Seul First Nation opened in the area, providing First Nation youth with excellent opportunities for entry-level employment.

“There are two more lots available for development,” said Bailey. “We do receive interest on those, so I anticipate in 2014 there will be more development on those sites.”