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Northern organizations lauded for entrepreneurial spirit

Penokean Hills Farms, Atikokan Economic Development Corp. recognized by Community Futures Ontario
Penokean Hills Farms is a collective of Algoma cattle farmers that sell their beef under one banner.

Two Northern Ontario organizations are being celebrated for their contributions to economic development in their respective communities.

Penokean Hills Farms and the Atikokan Economic Development Corp. were recognized by Community Futures Ontario during the organization’s annual conference, held in Sault Ste. Marie June 2-4.

Penokean Hills, which operates an abattoir and retail shop in Bruce Mines east of Sault Ste. Marie, received the Entrepreneur of the Year Award.

The company was formed in 2005 by a group of local producers who came together to create a proprietary system for raising and finishing beef, which is all marketed under the same brand.

Today, it works with producers from Algoma, Sudbury, Manitoulin, New Liskeard and Cochrane who sell high-quality cattle, hogs or crops into the program.

Beef and pork produced through the program are then sold to restaurants, butcher shops and retail locations throughout Ontario.

Penokean Hills opened a brand-new 14,500-square-foot abattoir in Bruce Mines in 2023 featuring a full-service retail shop, a custom smoking and curing kitchen, a dry-aging room, and a kill floor and cut floor.

The opening of the facility has created 22 new jobs, stabilized pricing for participant farmers, and increased sales for support businesses, such as repair shops, fuel delivery services, farm machinery, retailers, and building supply contractors.

Atikokan EDC was recognized for Excellence in Community Economic Development.

The organization led efforts, alongside Resolute Forest Products, to resolve a labour shortage at the local sawmill by establishing accommodations for Ukrainian newcomers settling in the community.

Unable to find enough local workers to fully staff its sawmill, Resolute turned to Ukrainians coming to Canada, after being displaced by the Ukraine-Russia war, to fill those positions. Unfortunately, there were no available accommodations to house the newcomers.

With help from the EDC, Resolute converted the empty Atikokan Hotel into living quarters, equipped with laundry and gym facilities, for newcomers.

Resolute Forest Products and the Atikokan Economic Development Corp. worked together to find accommodations for Ukrainian newcomers to the town. | Screenshot/Community Futures Ontario

To date, more than 100 displaced Ukrainians have settled in Atikokan, increasing the town’s population by five per cent and enabling the sawmill to double the number of its shifts.

The benefits are numerous: there is a hardworking and willing workforce available to support the town’s largest employer; the town’s aging workforce is experiencing a renewal; and the town has been culturally enriched by the arrival of Ukrainian newcomers, who are integrating into society.

Community Futures Ontario is a federally funded organization representing 60 Community Futures Development Corporations (CFDCs) — 36 in southern Ontario and 24 in the North — that offer free business counselling, loans for startup and expansion of small business, strategic planning on local projects and community economic development in rural areas.