Skip to content

Mayor hears big box not the way to develop the Bay

Mayor Victor Fedeli hosted the 4th Annual 'Mayor's Think Tank' Tuesday at the Best Western.

Mayor Victor Fedeli hosted the 4th Annual 'Mayor's Think Tank' Tuesday at the Best Western.

Twenty people from various sectors including global business, education, professional executives and students joined Fedeli at the table to talk about how to further develop the city, as well as discuss the role they can play to help get companies to locate to North Bay.
Fedeli says this session was the largest so far and that he is flooded with ideas.

“I’ve got three solid pages of notes and it’s hard to think of even one of the ideas that jumped up above and beyond the others,” he states.

Fedeli says the first idea he will follow through with is updating the city website to list positions available with North Bay Employers

“When you think about a company like Voyager Airways who today needs 15 people, and people in this room here of the 20 some students, not one of them ever heard of Voyager Airways, obviously there’s a gap in the connectivity of the needs and those who are available,” he states.

Although Fedeli couldn’t put his finger on one idea that has fully been developed out of one of the past three ‘Think Tanks,’ he knows they have had influence in the direction the city has taken.

“I think the changes that we’ve made in the city’s web, a lot of it has to do with how we approach things. We know that we are not chasing widget manufacturers; that we’re looking at the IT sector,” he explains.

“Everyone of these men and women over the last three years has said the jobs of manufacturing, unless you want to turn into the rust belt of Ontario like Kitchener, they’ve gone to China and they’re gone to India, look into the hi-tech sector and I think you’ve seen a real shift in our focus through that area so it certainly was part of my campaign, but it comes out of the results of the discussions with these men and women.”

When asked if the professionals, given an opportunity, are looking to move home, Fedeli responded, “Well I think they know that the quality of life in North Bay is second to none. I think that when they look at how they’re raising their families down in Southern Ontario, they know that there is a better life for them here in North Bay. They know that we’ve got a senior's strategy, they know we’ve got an immigration strategy and they know that we’ve got a huge environmental commitment.”

“There’s not one person in this room who wouldn’t want to move back here, given the right circumstances, the circumstances … a good paying job that they can transport there skills” he states.

“Everyone of them has a university degree, a graduate degree. These are men and women, who know how important the quality of life in North Bay is, they like to see the Capitol Centre, they like to see things like our Heritage Festival and they like to see us spending money on infrastructure. They know that this is the prime place for them to be.”

I’m here because I’m here visiting family, but North Bay is an attractive place for someone like me. As I head into my late fifties in about 10 years, this is a place I would look to come back to,” states Rollin B. Stanley, Planning and Urban Designer for the City of St. Louis.

Stanley says the connections globally, through the internet give one the ability to move back and continue to work and live life to its fullest.

“The other thing is North Bay is in a position where it’s suitably located. You’re going to be three to three and a half hours from Toronto, you’ve got a great environment here. Once you’re connected electronically, as the community is, in different stages of people's lives this becomes a very attractive place to live.”

He warns that developing North Bay in a big box style like other cities is not the answer when trying to entice people to relocate to the Bay.

“We actually covered that today and we mentioned the Starbucks … if you go to San Francisco, they don’t want Starbucks they want the Twiggs, they want the small coffee stores to come in an prosper and expand and be locally grown as opposed to the format stores that come in and do things a certain way.”

“North Bay has some terrific resources to expand and grow local talent, local businesses to give the product that people want to come to. You can walk down any street in Toronto and find a Starbucks, you can’t find a Twiggs. In fact the niche markets in a place like Toronto or San Francisco or St Louis the big places are those little home-grown things that are unique,” he explains.

“So if I’m moving up from Toronto to have a cottage or think of retiring here, or growing a business, I’ve had enough of those things,. I want the little business to grow here, Gullliver’s downtown I always go there when I come, these are the things that attract people.”

Stanley, who has worked in both Toronto and now in St. Louis Missouri, says the cities are of different size but still face similar problems. He says that the city needs to look to the future in a sense of what does this community want to be, what does it look like especially when it comes to Lakeshore Drive.

“There’s a lot of things North Bay can be because it is so well situated and with four lanes coming in, North Bay is on the bubble. North Bay can go in a tremendous direction in a positive way,” he states.

“You look at the mall where people used to shop on Lakeshore Drive how do you remake that … you take the first one hundred feet of the fronting on Lakeshore Drive and build something else there, because Lakeshore Drive sits on the lake that should be our premiere street right into downtown and right now it’s not very attractive.”

“How do we make that different, it’s as simple as bringing in some design guidelines of buildings that are built there. Have a greater percentage of fenestration or windows that open blank wall space looking in both directions now they would look nice,” explains Stanley.

“These are simple things that make your community more appealing to people who want to move here.”