Fort Frances is located on the Ontario-Minnesota border directly above Interstate 5 to Kansas City. The community is situated on a no-wait border with full rail access. The International border crossing is the busiest tourism port in Northern Ontario, as hundreds of thousands of U.S. travellers enter Canada to visit one of the 750 resorts north of the community.
The Town of Fort Frances has a rich history in the forestry industry. The town’s pulp and paper mill is scheduled to reopen after a short closure in the summer of 2013. The community is at the centre of the Rainy River District, which covers the townships of Alberton, Atikokan, Chapple, Dawson, Emo, La Vallee, Lake of the Woods, and Morley, as well as numerous First Nations. The Town of Fort Frances is the primary hub for judicial, medical, and business needs within the region, with the entire infrastructure required to support the needs of area businesses.
“We are very fortunate to have kept a significant portion of our forestry industry while we move into developing a stronger tourism industry and taking advantage of the mineral exploration happening in our district,” Tannis Drysdale, Economic Development Consultant working with the Town of Fort Frances, told The Canadian Business Journal. “We are a community in transition with a bright future.”
In terms of mineral exploration, The District currently has six exploration companies drilling on properties. Two companies have entered into the permitting phase and announced plans to open mining operations. Rainy River Resources, recently purchased by New Gold, has confirmed reserves of 4 million ounces of gold and will begin open pit operations in 2015 pending permitting. Fort Frances and the Rainy River District are only 100 miles north of the Iron Range of northeastern Minnesota, where significant mining operations have reopened.
“To east, west, and south of us companies within an hour of Fort Frances are investing billions of dollars, opening new mines and exploring mineral deposits,” Drysdale explained. “We believe that quite a number of mining operations will open over the next couple of years. With entrepreneurs having access to capital to build and grow business, plus easy access to a no-wait international border crossing, I think we have exceptional opportunity to attract many small- to mid-sized businesses to grow with us in the Rainy River District.”
Fort Frances also points to its more affordable energy rates that make it more attractive to operate a business in the Rainy River District. Natural gas and hydro rates are both significantly below the provincial average. Hydro is available in Fort Frances at the lowest rate in Ontario, of at least 30 per cent less than the average in the province.
Industrial Park Prices
This spring the town made the bold move to cut its land sale rate to $3,500 an acre. With easy access to all services these half acre lots are ready to build on.
“We are serious about attracting new and expanding business opportunities. We see ourselves as partners with industry and will work together to find the solutions needed to grow job opportunities here in Fort Frances,” added Roy Avis, Mayor of Fort Frances.
In terms of industry, Fort Frances is a popular destination for tourists, given its close proximity to an international border crossing. The town is well known for its bass fisheries, and each year it hosts the Canadian Bass Championship. With the local economy largely driven by the pulp and paper industry, the Town of Fort Frances has seen some industry impact from the strengthening of the Canadian dollar, and increasing technological advances have lessened the demand for those involved in newsprint production.
Moving forward, the Town of Fort Frances will continue to offer much to its existing and expanding business community. From cost of living to business operational costs, Fort Frances and Rainy River is more affordable than most of Southern Ontario, plus it offers access to funds and capital exclusive to Northern Ontario. The region promotes its many advantages, such as lower energy costs and valuable industrial park land, in an effort to continue building a successful and sustainable local economy.