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2015 Communities of Opportunity: Kapuskasing

The future of agriculture in Northern Ontario starts in the Great Clay Belt region, and Kapuskasing is positioning itself to take full advantage of this opportunity.

The future of agriculture in Northern Ontario starts in the Great Clay Belt region, and Kapuskasing is positioning itself to take full advantage of this opportunity.

Escalating land prices in southern Ontario, coupled with the need for sustainable agriculture and the adverse impact of change, has garnered this large tract of fertile ground much attention over the past number of years.

The provincial government is committed to working with farmers on a visionary plan to bring significant swaths of Crown and private Northern land into agricultural production, which will provide a major economic opportunity for the region.

The Town of Kapuskasing sees itself as benefiting from the new lands being made available to farmers.

The northeastern Ontario town of 8,200 is situated within the Clay Belt, considered the largest undeveloped area of land in North America.

It’s also home to the 850-acre former federal experimental farm, which was slated for closure in 2012 until it was acquired by the Kapuskasing Economic Development Corporation. The farm has been developed as a demonstration farm.

“We see the farm as an economic development tool that will position Kapuskasing to benefit from the increased activity in farming,” said Mayor Alan Spacek. “The acquisition of the former federal farm is an important step in developing the agricultural sector and this economic tool will spur activity in the ag sector.”

The Beef Farmers of Ontario have released the Northern Beef Expansion Plan, which aims to develop more than 100,000 acres of farmland and add 15 to 20 new farms in the Clay Belt.

The opportunity occurs at a time when Ontario beef products are in high demand across Canada and the world. The Province has challenged the agri-food industry to create 120,000 jobs by the year 2020.

Another catalyst for growth is the Kapuskasing Airport, which has undergone a major makeover in recent years with an investment of $4.5 million for infrastructure improvements such as enhanced water capacity and refuelling equipment. The reconstruction of the apron has spurred the development of a business park, and the facility serves as a key emergency evacuation hub.

Several acres are available for development and private sector investment. Some forward-looking planning is starting to pay dividends and steps are underway to construct a multi-use hangar to capitalize on regional economic development opportunities.

Tembec’s mill operation continues to be the community’s largest employer with a workforce of close to 600. That number is expected to grow as the mill needs 250 employees over the next five years due to retirement. This means employment opportunities for job hunters.

The municipality’s energy corporation continues to create employment and spinoff opportunities across the region. Énergie Kapuskasing Energy (ÉKE) has completed more than $35 million worth of solar projects since 2012. ÉKE has developed partnership agreements with area municipalities such as Virginiatown, Englehart and Cobalt, and projects have recently been awarded to Kirkland Lake, Matachewan, Gauthier and St-Charles. All will be developed in partnership with ÉKE. The municipal company has also acquired solar installations in Val Rita-Harty and Mississauga. All the energy projects will provide revenue and economic benefits for the community for more than 20 years.

Located on Highway 11, Kapuskasing offers an experienced and skilled labour force working within a specialized supply and service sector.

As one of Ontario’s more northern municipalities, it’s relatively close by air to the Ring of Fire, a potential multi-billion-dollar mineral camp in the James Bay lowlands. Kapuskasing is ideally positioned and well equipped to service the mining companies and their advanced exploration projects in the region.

In the last 10 years, the town has seen more than $75 million spent on local infrastructure, including a new water tower, water treatment plant, and upgrades to the existing wastewater treatment plant and lift station.

With an experienced and available workforce at the ready, a progressive municipal council and economic development corporation, Kapuskasing is prepared for any challenges and growth it may encounter.