“A Fresh Breeze Blowing Through Thunder Bay”

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Sleeping GiantTHUNDER BAY – I know it’s far from springtime, but there sure is a fresh new breeze blowing through Thunder Bay lately.  On Tuesday evening the Northwestern Ontario Innovation Centre hosted a meeting called “Infinite Possibilities”.  The three-hour session featured guest speaker Ian Percy who focused his presentation on tapping into the energy, ideas and inspiration each person has regarding their community.

Percy explained that people often focus on the mechanics of community change but rarely innovate or allow themselves to become truly inspired.  Yet it is possible, and Percy would say preferable, for each of us to open ourselves up to inspiration and new possibilities.

The presentation itself was not magical- but it wasn’t meant to be.  It served its purpose; The 110 people in the room were given the permission they needed to truly open up and share the infinite possibilities they see for Thunder Bay.

Doug Gorrie shared an idea where taxpayers could use a website to allocate 10% of their municipal taxes to city projects, services and departments that they themselves deem important.  This would promote collaboration and community building.  Another gentleman said that people should just be encouraged to meet once a month at the Marina or in a large public space to talk with each other, share ideas, and meet new people.  Ian Percy called this idea, “The internet but with people.”

Harold Wilson suggested we host “Thunder Bay Parties” in cities across Canada to reconnect with ex-pats and remind them to come home for a visit or to stay.  Jered Zieroth shared his idea of making Thunder Bay the Care Capital of Canada- where our city is known as the go-to place for growing new or emerging not-for-profits and the “caring industry”.

Another young man suggested Thunder Bay should be the first city to go “off grid”- to a round of applause.  “We have the resources to do it- there’s no reason we can’t become an energy self-sufficient city”, he stated.  The ideas continued, one after the other, and the room was became charged with optimism.

After thanking the speaker, Seppo Paivalainen noted that there were quite a few younger people in the room.  It wasn’t just the same “old boy’s network”.

This was true- I was at a table with a teacher, programmer and a few entrepreneurs, all of whom were still in there 20’s.  And- surveying the room I saw that younger faces were all around.  Sure, there were some familiar faces: Rebecca Johnson, Silvio DiGregario, Tracy Buckler, Don Wing, Mark Smith, Pat Lang, Don Patterson and so on.  But, these folks did not dominate the landscape and they didn’t control the conversation.

Perhaps the reason I found this event so refreshing was that it wasn’t the same old- same old.  Younger voices were heard and their ideas were taken seriously.

The “That’s Just Thunder Bay” mindset was set aside.  Possibilities were explored and people were given the permission they needed to think bigger.

As the crowd began to thin I heard a comment or two about how change is hard and how change in Thunder Bay is slow.  But, at the same time I saw people exchanging phone numbers and arranging breakfast meetings- ones that may not have happened otherwise.

I think it opened up some eyes to new possibilities for Thunder Bay.

Paul Wolfe

LINK: http://www.nwoinnovation.ca/