THUNDER BAY – Media reports that the Northwestern Ontario Immigration Portal receives “five or six hits per day” appear to not share the full story. Rather than hits, the site is receiving five to six inquires per day according to Stephanie Ash-Suarez. The site, which has been online for just over a year, has put thirty-two communities across the region, several of which were not online before onto the Internet.
It is a large project with over 500 pages of content, translation into 11 languages, and more than 30 photo galleries, the Portal showcases Northwestern Ontario as an international destination of choice for immigrants. It also provides essential information, resources and referrals to help newcomers settle more easily once they have arrived in the region’s cities and towns.
In March 2010 when the project was launched, Rebecca Johnson said, “Prospective immigrants to Canada and newcomers from around the country or province can now find everything they need to know about living, working, learning and doing business in Northwestern Ontario and its communities at the click of a mouse.” Johnson, a Thunder Bay City Councillor is also an Advisory Committee Member for the Northwestern Ontario Immigration Portal. “This project has resulted in the municipalities of Northwestern Ontario collaborating like never before. It’s a ground-breaking initiative and a privilege to be part of it,” Johnson added.
Ash-Suarez, who is an expat Brit who immigrated to Thunder Bay shares that the project is a lot bigger than just a website. “It is an amazing project that actually involves individual, multi-page sites for 32 communities plus NWO as a region and translated into 15 languages. The project costs are about more than building a website but many more things like training, travel to 32 communities, regional forums, translation, IT infrastructure and more. Many smaller Municipalities now have a web presence for the first time with info about living, learning, working, doing business and recreation!”
Ash-Suarez adds, this is a “great regional project that has been touted by the Govt. Of Canada as a flagship immigration initiative”.
There are other benefits to the project as well. “This project has had a number of spin off benefits including a first time web presence for Municipalities who were not previously online, training on IT, business succession sales, integration and newcomer settlement training and much more,” shared Ash-Suarez.
A consortium was contracted to design and develop the Northwestern Ontario Immigration Portal comprised of the Procom Consultants Group in partnership with WaltMar Systems Group and Firedog Communications of Thunder Bay. Technical development for the Portal was completed by the City of Thunder Bay’s Web Application Developers. The project was initiated and led by the Thunder Bay & District Entrepreneur Centre, the City of Thunder Bay Information & Technology department and Thunder Bay Multicultural Association.