Northern Economist 2.0

Monday, 24 July 2017

Port Activity in Thunder Bay: A Retrospective

Thunder Bay's economic development hinged on its role as a transportation hub and its port was integral to that.  From the early days of the grain trade to the development of the massive elevators that still mark its waterfront, Thunder Bay was vital to the development of the Canadian wheat economy.  At its peak, over thirty grain elevators lined the waterfront in Thunder Bay and it was the largest grain port in the world.  Thunder Bay's port underwent a decline in the 1980s as a result of shifts in global grain markets that persisted  into the early 21st century but recent years have seen a resurgence of both the grain trade and the port.  Indeed, there is new life in the entire St. Lawrence Seaway as a recent piece in the Globe and Mail noted that 2017 has seen a 20 percent increase in freight movement driven by iron ore and grain shipping.

Monday, 17 July 2017

Economic News Around the North: July 17th Edition

Well, a number of interesting items have come to my attention with respect to stories with an economic impact on northern Ontario.  However, it is summer and peak travel season so I think I will keep things short and a bit more eclectic than usual, but with a tourism focus.

To start off, it would appear that tourism efforts in White River, Ontario may be all for naught given the reaction of the Chinese government to Winnie the Pooh.  According to a BBC story, Winnie the Pooh is being blocked in China because images of Pooh are being used to represent China's President Xi Jinping in social commentary and criticism. 




Winnie-the-Pooh may be the world's most beloved bear but apparently the love stops in Beijing where government censors cannot "bear" the images.  White River has of course gone to great lengths to market its link to the character and everyone who has driven the highway has invariably stopped at the roadside statue of the Pooh.

 

No doubt, White River and its citizens will now join the list of subversive elements being monitored by the Chinese government and the Pooh Hometown Festival held the third week of August will acquire new cachet and international significance.  Mark August 18th down in your travel calendar.

In other northern news stories with some relation to tourism and the economics of tourism and travel:

Thunder Bay's Hotel Boom shows no sign of slowing. Northern Ontario Business. July 12th, 2017.

Sudbury Casino would drain economy: report. Nugget.ca. June 27th, 2017.

Thunder Bay Tops Best Places to Live in Northern Ontario. Tbnewswatch. July 6th, 2017.

Well, given Thunder Bay's recent spate of bad news, the above ranking by MoneySense qualifies as good news though the story does qualify the ranking by noting that nevertheless, Thunder Bay barely makes the top 100 ranking only 97th overall (out of 400).

Summer is also the season of festivals and events and the economic impact of these festivals is important.

Few weeks before festival financial picture is clear: Mayor. Timmins Press.ca. July 5th, 2017.

Temiskaming Shores first-ever craft beer festival already sold out. CBC News Sudbury. July 11th, 2017.

Sturgeon Falls festival serves up Rock 'n Ribs. Nugget.ca. July 16th, 2017.

And if you are in Thunder Bay and at Hillcrest Park on Thursday evenings, there is always the MacGillivray Pipe Band which is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year.



And speaking of MacGillivray, what would William MacGillivray (b. 1764, d. 1825; Chief Director of the Northwest Company) who managed a commercial fur trade empire that extended A Mare usque ad Mare and after whom Fort William, the inland headquarters of the Northwest Company was named, think of this?

Have a great week!

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Thunder Bay's Crisis: Time to Move Forward

Thunder Bay often feels neglected by decision makers in Toronto as well as the national media.  Indeed, it has sometimes been expressed that for Thunder Bay, bad publicity is better than no publicity at all as it draws attention to its needs. I disagree and am more disposed to the adage that no news is good news.  Thunder Bay has been making the national media all too often over the last few months and the attention is not favorable.  One really has to wonder why community leaders in Thunder Bay have not been expressing more concern about the issues spanning indigenous relations, institutional problems and social issues given the waves of negative attention.

One only has to take a look at the Toronto Star to see the spotlight that has been focused on Thunder Bay.  Indeed, many issues appear to be getting more attention in Toronto and the national press than in Thunder Bay itself.  The ultimate economic spillover on our community in terms of its potential as a good place to invest and do business is in serious danger.   This is not good for the community and if you think I am exaggerating the potential negative long-term impact that this could have on the city's image and ultimately its economy, take a look at the list of stories that have appeared in the Toronto Star since early May.  If you were an investor planning to open a business in Thunder Bay, a tourist thinking of visiting or a student planning to attend the university or college, how would you react to the following list of stories that mention Thunder Bay - just from the Toronto Star?