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Invest North Bay hopes to report its first successful investment in the city, within the next few months

'It's going to take a sustained effort, and everyone's really working hard at attracting investment and new businesses to the city. It's very competitive' George Burton Invest North Bay Board Chair

In presenting Invest North Bay’s Annual Report to city council, chair George Burton told councillor's that in reality, driving investment to North Bay is a long-term project  

“It’s going to take a sustained effort, and everyone’s really working hard at attracting investment and new businesses to the city. It’s highly competitive,” said Burton.

The board chair acknowledges there is frustration coming from the volunteer board, council and the citizens.

“Council went out on a limb and allocated one million dollars to Invest North Bay. The public is looking for some return on that money as we are, and I think we all wanted immediate results. The reality is, there are no immediate results. It does take sustained long-term efforts, and we’re hoping in a month or two, we’re going to report on our first success.”

A success that has been three years in the making.

Burton says investments are dependent on several factors, some of which they can control, others they can’t.

“Those we do control are being well managed. The other side of the equation is with the company, and it’s their final decision whether or not to relocate to North Bay,” said Burton.

“It’s a courting exercise frankly. There’s the initial interest, they look at other sites, they do their due diligence, they come back, they do more due diligence. It is a dance. And again, it’s their investment at the end of the day, and they’ll decide where they’re going to put it. We’re in the final throes of this, and we’re hoping that decision is North Bay.”  

Often confused with Thunder Bay, the board is up against an awareness issue.

“We get lost in is the Sudbury, Toronto, Ottawa triangle, and become an afterthought. So we do need to raise the profile of North Bay, again as an alternative, as a destination for investment.”

The board has its sights set on the 905 and 416 area codes.

“It’s going to be a very targeted campaign with the value marketing proposition focused on investment. Our marketing is on return on investment. The cost of doing business here, the cost of land, the cost of business taxes is all part of the equation. It’s very focused, and we’ll be doing some data analytics to again focus on our campaign because we do have a limited amount of resources to do that. Don’t look for splashy ads in the Globe and Mail or on prime time television. This is going to be marketed directly to the individuals who make the decisions.”

Following the presentation, North Bay Mayor Al McDonald said the board and chair have a good handle on just how competitive it is to attract business to invest in cities.

“It’s a war quite frankly, of trying to put your best foot forward. There’s no question that we have the lowest industrial tax ratios in Ontario, but it’s not that. We also need the skilled labour that goes with attracting industry,” said McDonald.

“Most people in Toronto don’t even know we’re closer to Toronto than Ottawa is. So it is that education piece that’s needed, and that’s where the investment that council made in Invest North Bay to put that in place, which is going to start in the next two months, I think is well invested. But I think it’s really going to put North Bay at the forefront the best we can, in the most expensive media market there is in Canada, but it’s also the biggest population.”  

Burton told council pursuing investment is not something the board can take time away from, it needs to keep the momentum going.

“North Bay is a well-kept secret. We all enjoy our lifestyle. The only way we can maintain it, is if we continue to grow and prosper. Whether you believe in Invest North Bay or not, at the end of the day we have to ensure our tax base expands, because the cost of providing the services we all enjoy, continue to go up. Even at the rate of inflation, we need to grow at least at that level.”  

Invest North Bay is working cooperatively with the city’s Economic Development department. Its mandate is to bring new investment to North Bay, while the EDC is focused on business retention and expansion.