“I consider my newbie status as a blessing…” Justin Frape

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Justin FrapeTHUNDER BAY – Okay, I admit; as honoured as I am to be your Chamber of Commerce Board Chair, my roots in Thunder Bay are not that deep.  My wife and I own a home and business in Thunder Bay, Katherine was born and raised in Thunder Bay and we are only days away from giving birth to our first child here.  There is no doubt in my mind that my family and I are here to stay, full stop.  However, I grew up in suburban and urban Toronto, only having moved here a little under five years ago.

In some respects, I consider my newbie status as a blessing.  While I am an avid student of history, my view of Thunder Bay is skewed very little by the “Thunder Bay that was”.  There is no doubt that the economic means and fortunes of the past have long dissipated, but I count myself among those who are over-the-moon excited with where we are headed as a community.  Thunder Bay sought to reinvent itself long before the collapse of the forestry sector, and we are currently at a point where I believe the fruits of past labour are as visible as the bright future ahead of us.  It hasn’t been, nor will it be a simple exercise in reinvention; I don’t seek to distil our past and future to an exhaustive list of three bullet points, but I think these are some key reasons to be bullish about our future.

We are assembling the building blocks of our future.

I didn’t witness the debate surrounding the amalgamation of our two hospitals, I didn’t see the prior attempts to renew our waterfront, the medical school was in its infancy and the Research Institute was already framed in Michael Power’s mind when I moved to Thunder Bay in February of 2006.  It does, indeed, take money to make money; not only have these investments generated economic activity in their creation, but I know we are only beginning to see our return on investment with these initiatives.  Although I despise references to clichés, “we” are building it, and “they” are coming.  This benefits us all; with greater economic activity comes the need for more good and services, more ratepayers to our tax base and more perspective to our collective discourse.

We have resources at our disposal, waiting to be tapped.

In addition to that which we have consciously built and invested, we are further blessed to be in proximity to some of the richest mineral resource deposits in the world.  Although the window of opportunity for mining is longer term, and its benefits for our community are not yet secured, I have no doubt that we will see further return on investment for pursuing a future in the mining sector.  If we view mining as an opportunity for mining technology development in addition to simple resource extraction, we will be able to export our know-how, as much as we will be able to export minerals.  Further, our resources are not only in the ground, but in Queen’s Park; we are fortunate to be the home town of our Province’s Minister of Northern Development, Mines and Forestry.  We as a Chamber, and as a community, should be doing everything we can to ensure that Minister Gravelle has the support, mandate and direction he needs to facilitate a prosperous future for the Northwest.

We are an intensely resilient community.

This is my favourite reason, because I believe it more strongly than any other.  When a community has a naturally large population base, has a natural proximity to keys markets and an extensive resource base at its disposal, one need not necessarily be particularly inventive or imaginative to attain economic success.  I don’t mean to suggest that the “Golden Horseshoe” of Ontario is devoid of great successes, but I do suggest that “horseshoe” might apply to more than just the geographic shape of the region around Lake Ontario.  It is the resilience and imaginative nature our community that makes me want to live, work and raise a family in Thunder Bay.  If you look at demographic trends for our community, I am not alone in my aspiration; there is positive, inward migration of thirty- and forty-somethings who may, or may not, have roots in our community.  Indeed, your next Board Chair, Michael Nitz, hails from Scarborough, Ontario; he and his family, too, understand the value of living here.

We are a community of fighters, we have seized opportunities for renewal, and our continued efforts position us to enjoy a bright future.  It is this mindset that I bring to the Chamber as your Board Chair, and I know my enthusiasm is shared by my fellow Directors. 

The Chamber plays a vital role in ensuring our efforts are coordinated and beneficial to us all, and I strongly encourage our members to reaffirm their commitment to the Chamber.  For those who are not yet members of the Chamber, I implore you to consider how a Chamber membership would benefit your business and your community.

Justin Frape

Click here for more information on the Thunder Bay Chamber of Commerce

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