The North Bay & District Chamber of Commerce has watched with much interest, the news regarding Canadore College and the request for investment that was tabled a few weeks ago with Council.  The resulting responses from members of Council and others, followed by the subsequent withdrawal of the request by Canadore, is an unfortunate situation, from a business perspective.

Education is one of our major economic drivers in both our City and district.  Our post education facilities give us a unique advantage in that sector, with both Canadore College and Nipissing University co-located on the same campus.  The annual economic impact that these facilities have on our economy, provides annual stabilization for many of our businesses.  When we look at Canadore and the evolution that they have gone through, together with their strategic investments in our communities future, it is here that we lost an opportunity to make change and commitment to future success.

Like it or not, the way we do business has to change when it comes to these type of investments.  Canadore did the right thing by withdrawing its request.  Not because it shouldn’t have been requested but rather because of the controvery that was created, by a few.  If we look at many other communities that have post secondary education facilities in their communities, guess what we see?  We see successful partnerships between the communities and their post secondary institutions.

A few columns ago, I referred to a number of acronyms from Doug Griffiths book “13 Ways to Kill your Community”.  In the book he spoke about CAVE people (Citizens Against Virtually Everything)and I added the ETC (Except Their Cause) acronym to the CAVE people.  This appears to be much the case when all items are considered.  When it comes down to it, it was a request to participate in an investment in our community that became something, that it never should have.

These investments are not the exception to the rule, this is what is happening in Sudbury, Timmins, Thunder Bay, Sault Ste. Marie and this is only our closest neighbours.  Southern Ontario is even more competitive when it comes to investing and partnering with communities and private business.  The community is the one that benefits both in the short and long term.  This request was not precedent setting.  We have seen many in the past in our City,  including One Kids Place, Cassellholme, Laurentian Ski Hill, Capitol Centre, Dionne Home and the list goes on.  This was no different than any of these and investments were made.

When we look at the specific investment request that was put forth sometime ago by Canadore, it not only provided training for students but also the commercialization of the facility to attract, retain and expand upon the film and music industries, which has been a major focus by the City over the past number of years.  The state of the art facility will be successful with or without the City of North Bay’s investment, but it is my opinion that not only a huge opportunity to support job creation and retention was lost, but also a commitment to the importance of economic development for the future.

If we don’t change the way we look at these investments, are we going to keep pace with others or remain frozen?

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