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CEDC seeks public feedback on strategic plan

Thunder Bay residents can weigh in on priorities for economic development in the city at an event on Saturday or an online survey.
Eric Zakrewski T-Bay CEDC
Eric Zakrewski, CEO of the Thunder Bay CEDC, said public input is meaningful in shaping the agency's newest strategic plan. (File)

THUNDER BAY — The agency focused on stimulating economic development in the city of Thunder Bay is looking for feedback from the public on its upcoming strategy plan.

The Thunder Bay Community Economic Development Commission (CEDC), an arm's-length municipal agency that also houses Tourism Thunder Bay, is holding a pop-up consultation at the Goods & Co. Market on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

An online survey will also collect public feedback through June 15, with over 200 participants so far.

That input will be used to guide the CEDC’s 2023-2026 strategic plan.

CEO Eric Zakrewski said the new document will focus on priorities including addressing labour force challenges, supporting tourism recovery and growth in sectors like mining, working with Fort William First Nation and other partners to spur Indigenous economic development, and promoting increased investment in social services.

Based on what he’s hearing from local businesses and other employers, Zakrewski identified workforce development as likely the city’s largest economic challenge — though he noted it’s an issue faced by communities across the country.

“There is a huge demand for workers across every single segment of employment in Thunder Bay,” he said. “The forest products industry is struggling to fill a number of positions… but we’re also hearing the same thing from the hotel industry, from restauranteurs, from microbreweries, and in public services.”

Major health-care institutions like the regional hospital and St. Joseph’s Care Group sometimes see vacant positions like PSWs and specialists go unfilled for years, he said.

Working to address that, including through a continued focus on immigration, will be a significant theme in the new plan, he said.

Attempts to rebuild the city’s industrial sector are also likely to be front and centre, with Zakrewski pointing to opportunities in lithium upgrading, with several companies expressing interest in Thunder Bay as a potential location.

“At least one of those players, the investment they’re looking at is about half a billion dollars, about a thousand construction jobs for a year and a half, and then 150 permanent jobs to operate the plant as they go forward,” he said.

The public feedback is meaningful, Zakrewski said. He noted the CEDC is looking at expanding its focus on the social services sector after hearing growing concerns about issues like mental health and addictions.

“We see a lot of concern about the social and safety issues in Thunder Bay,” he said. “You might think, what does that have to do with economic development, but we look at those challenges and we see opportunities around things like health sciences, addiction treatment, crisis management, and social services. We see opportunity to promote and advocate for more government investment and job creation to strengthen those supports.”

— TBNewswatch