The month of March is flying by and the first signs of spring have begun to show.  The temperature fluctuations over the past couple of weeks, although welcome after this long winter have made it challenging for getting around this region.  Many thanks to all the municipal maintenance crews for trying to keep up with the road and sidewalk maintenance and keep us moving.  It has not been an easy task.

Earlier this month, The Chamber along with numerous community partners, were invited to attend a round table discussion with MP Matt DeCourcey, Parliamentary Secretary to Canada’s Immigration Minister and MP Anthony Rota. The groups were asked to provide the community input on how immigration into this region, is important for our future.  The Parliamentary Secretary provided his experience with a prior successful pilot project, that took on the east coast.

The visit was timely given the application for a similar pilot project, which was previously announced by the Federal Government.  The project is open to applications for rural and northern regions throughout the country and it is expected to be a highly sought-after program.  Declining populations and difficulties in attracting specific professional and trade designations, are a few of the issues facing Northern Ontario and this area as well.  Patti Carr, Vice President of Policy and Communications co-ordinated the application with Erin Richmond, Manager of the Economic Development and her team, with the City of North Bay.  Great team effort and thanks to the many stakeholders who provided input and support.

A tremendous amount of time and effort was put into this application within a very limited period, given the short application timeline that was provided.  It was important enough for the future of this area, that it was an “all hands-on deck” attitude from the many partners that see this as an integral part of our future success.  From the education sector, the health care sector and the business community, the need for this type of project is essential.  The ability for this region to hold its own against other regions, maintain its population and grow, we need this program as an additional tool for future economic development.  Most of the groups that met with MP’s Rota and DeCourcey provided feed back to them that supported this integrated approach. 

The Chamber will continue to support, collaborate and innovate when it comes to these types of initiatives that have potential to expand this region’s capacity and to grow our business community.  Except for our indigenous communities across this continent, we are all immigrants to this country.  Immigration is not a new concept and the past century is evident to that.  Opportunities, possibilities, and new starts, through immigration have existed for past generations and have proved to work as evidenced by our existing communities and infrastructures.  History has a way of repeating itself and we hope that our application for this pilot is successful, as we look to grow a strong future.

Peter Chirico is the President & CEO of the North Bay & District Chamber of Commerce.