By IAN ROSS
The establishment of the U. S. Department of Homeland Security, which was established in January, may spark a boom in business for many security companies as a result of a mammoth government bureaucracy hungering for technologies to enhance the security of the U.S.
Security is one idea that holds real future promise for Sault area companies through the city’s Secure Community Sault Ste. Marie initiative, says Bruce Strapp, president and CEO of the Sault Ste. Marie’s Economic Development Corp.
The city already boasts a number of companies such as ADT Security Services Canada and CyberCanada Security Services that represent a future growth industry worth billions in North America, says Strapp.
“Before, people were only concerned about security with regards to their home, now the technology is getting into business and government and it’s starting to become its own industry.”
The Secure Community Sault Ste. Marie will examine the emerging IT security market, looking at related interest and business opportunities coming down from the Department of Homeland Security and the federal government’s own security initiatives.
The city, which has contributed $15,000 to be a partner, has an application sponsored by the Sault Ste. Marie Innovation Centre before the government’s Prosperity Fund looking at security in this emerging marketplace.
The initiative includes a committee of many private-sector players, and 17 first responders representing local police agencies and international security organizations such as the Canadian Security Intelligence Service have written letters of support.
As well, a conference on Homeland Security with a series of forums is being planned for the Sault sometime in November.
Strapp says the Secure Community initiative involves four fundamental components: creating a Web site to serve as an information database on all trends happening with homeland security; hosting forums on new security initiatives targeting first responders; creating a network of IT businesses in Sault Ste. Marie around the area of security; and identifying new business opportunities to chase after new jobs.
The initiative, as it relates to bio-terrorism, holds possibilities in the city’s biotechnology cluster. The Sault remains an active proponent in the North’s emerging biotechnology field, and in the local $100,000-Science Works proposal through public- and private-sector partners looking at technology transfer and the commercialization of science.
“The Science Works business plan will identify what sort of platform we can do from the municipal and senior levels to support private-sector growth.”
The city is examining opportunities in the areas of bio-forestry (agricultural), bio-mining (such as waste by-products including mine tailings or possibly underground growth and cultures) and the biomedical (spin-off products from pharmaceuticals) field.
Clinical research is growing in the Sault at the Group Health Centre and the Sault Area Hospital. The sector has extensive patient-client records and physicians with expertise and knowledge to perform clinical trials and research to develop new health-care products, which are anticipated to be a source for future job creation.
It will also open doors for scientists in the forestry research sector.
The corporation is also working with Sudbury-based Neureka Research Corp., a biotechnology business considering expanding its operations to the Sault, in a partnership with the Group Health Centre, the Ontario Forest Research Institute, ULERN and Forest Biotechnology Inc.
It will be the lead organization for a pan-northern biotechnology cluster, which includes the Sault, to develop various biotechnology-related products and insect biotechnological controls.
In tourism, the proponents of a $53-million regional tourist attraction, formerly named Gateway waterfront site, are targeting to have a shovel in the ground by next spring.
Known as Legacy Quest, Rick Holmes, the president and CEO of Kittling Ridge Winery and Suites of the Niagara region, was lured to the Sault last year by the city’s project developer, MagiCorp. Entertainment Inc.
The plan is to build a 50,000-square-foot arts, culture, heritage and entertainment attraction on prized waterfront property adjacent to the Sault’s charity casino.
After years of failed attempts to bring private developers into the picture, Strapp is convinced the project is a go this time around.
“This is our fourth kick at the can,” says Strapp. “It’s a multimillion-dollar deal and what will spark and make this thing go is the private sector.”
The Northern Ontario Heritage Fund has committed $15 million towards the project, says Strapp, “now it’s up to the proponent to complete his engineering and final numbers.”
The city has formed a private-sector advisory board through its Destiny Sault Ste. Marie initiative, a community strategy umbrella group between the city, the economic development corporation and the Sault Ste. Marie and Area Community Development Corp. Representatives from each of the city’s major private-sector growth engines, along with officials from FedNor and the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund are represented on the group.
“The private sector will ultimately be the one that leads economic diversity,” says Strapp. “They are driving the platform that we are creating.”
The value-added steel products industry builds on the meagre success of a financially-restructured Algoma Steel, and the rapidly expanding growth of its former seamless tube plant, Algoma Tubes, now owned by Tenaris. The city continues to follow up on value-added steel prospects as one of the main thrusts of its two-year-old Industrial Marketing Strategy.
“Target marketing, that’s the key thing, but it’s still growth from within. The biggest success rate for attracting new industry is working with existing industry. Those are our biggest leads.”
The city and its forestry taskforce also played a supporting role to create Boniferro Mill Works from the remnants of a 120-employee hardwood sawmill closed earlier this year by Domtar. They assisted with their business plan, meeting Ministry of Natural Resources requirements to secure the area wood fibre.
Strapp says the city has identified two promising value-added leads related to Boniferro’s venture, one of which is slated for start-up in January and may involve a 65,000-square-foot former veneer operation on the site.
The city has further expanded in the information technology stream with a 30,000-square-foot e-commerce contact centre to be constructed on former Ministry of Transportation property next spring.
The Sutherland Group, a U.S. technology firm which is taking over the former White Rose building on Black Road in October for a customer fulfillment centre, is opening a second location to house employees offering basic help-desk support for customers. A portion of the MTO property, owned by the EDC, is being leased to the Sutherland Group.
The city says the e-commerce park property can accommodate three 30,000-square-foot buildings with shared parking.