By Ian Ross
The City of Elliot Lake is forging ahead with a number of economic development initiatives designed to build upon its success in retirement living and in attracting more tourists.
The influx of retirees has been a stabilizing influence on the community's tax base since 5,000 direct and indirect jobs were lost when the mines shut down in the mid 1990s.
"Retirement living continues to grow and we have to ensure that we have all the facilities and amenities to participate in that market," says Elliot Lake Mayor George Farkouh. "We want to make sure we remain the leading retirement community in Canada."
Richard Kennealy, general manager of Elliot Lake Retirement Living, says 40 per cent of the city's 13,500 residents are retirees - most of whom moved north from the Greater Toronto area and southwestern Ontario.
With retirement occupancy around 93 per cent, the city is preparing to establish between 500 and 600 waterfront lots in the coming years for retirement and seasonal cottages. The property is formerly Crown land spread out over 14 lakes within a 10 to 15-minute drive of the community's boundaries.
The city also recently opened two assisted-care homes providing 36 and 50 beds each, and has plans to add 64 more along with 40 to 50 full-time jobs.
The community has steadily expanded its retail base and evolved into a major regional shopping centre for the North Shore.
The city is also on the verge of announcing that two major national retailers are prepared to set up shop.
Farkouh says one economic development spinoff is in marketing Elliot Lake as a seniors test-market for corporations.
Tourism remains an active developmental component with work underway to expand the local golf course to 18 holes and a major proposal in the conceptual stages to establish various tourism destination attractions on the east side of Highway 108 near the city's centre. Marketing existing attractions such as the ski hill, golf course, a riding academy and fire lookout tower, tourism officials intend to build a pavillion as a staging point for outdoor