Where Will Thunder Bay Be in 2050?

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Where will Thunder Bay and Northwestern Ontario's focus be in 2050?
Thunder Bay Police on the job in the south core, Fort William Business District

Where will Thunder Bay and Northwestern Ontario's focus be in 2050?
Where will Thunder Bay and Northwestern Ontario’s focus be in 2050?

Building the future of the region is important it will take careful planning

THUNDER BAY – OPINION – What will be the economic focus in Northwestern Ontario and Thunder Bay in 2050? Often it seems the focus of many people are on what is happening right now, or what is likely to happen in the next weeks and months.

Right now, the mining sector has garnered a lot of attention and is being seen as a huge potential economic driver for our region.

Our region’s economy and focus has, for the past century been based on primary industries and transportation. Forestry and mining have been massive in our region.

Transportation has continued to offer huge economic results.

There are lots of changes that have happened over the past century. Change is coming, it seems faster and faster all the time.

The question should be asked, where are we going, and how are we going to get there in the next ten, twenty, thirty and forty years?

Where will Thunder Bay place our focus?

We are in the midst of a civic election campaign.

Election campaigns should be all about ideas and vision.

So where should we be focusing our ideas and vision for Thunder Bay and Northwestern Ontario?

Here are some of the sectors that I suggest need to be expanded.

Transportation. Thunder Bay has a long history of building streetcars, passenger rail cars, and light rail transit cars. Moving forward, this sector of our economy should be expanded. The importance of public transportation over the coming decades is going to grow. Thunder Bay needs to position ourselves to be the manufacturing centre for public transportation for Canada and North America.

  1. Health. There are many opportunities in the healthcare field. Thunder Bay has in a relatively short period of time continued to grow and expand in the areas of genome research, DNA research, and other areas of medical research. The demand for the foreseeable future for more research is going to be there. Expansion of this sector is a key for the future.
  2. Social Services. Right now, Thunder Bay, like many communities face issues with addiction and poverty. Thunder Bay should set a goal of becoming the leading community in North America in seeking and implementing solutions for these issues.
  3. Education. As a regional capital for Northwestern Ontario, Thunder Bay is where young people come to go to school. Confederation College and Lakehead University are also home to growing numbers of international students. Moving into the future, the importance of education will only grow. Ensuring that Thunder Bay is at the leading edge as a secondary education centre will help build our city and our economy.
  4. Entrepreneurship. Thunder Bay has the potential to become a hub of entrepreneurship in Canada. Fostering the growth of small independent business, will in some ways be a return to our past. A tour around our city shows many now empty storefronts where once small local companies were working and providing jobs and futures. There are the tools here to build on that sector, making it a focus would speed that success.

Is our Future To Be Found in our Past?

As you can see, these are broad areas. The condition of our roads, the event centre, and the shorter-term issues are not the focus. Mining and forestry are not the focus either.

Perhaps the reality is that no matter how big the mining and forestry sector is right now, or might be in the next ten, or twenty years, the fact is that once a mine has had the minerals extracted, the life of that mine is effectively over.

Planning our city and region’s path forward means looking at the broader trends and setting the planning process to achieve success in those areas.

How we do this collectively as a city, and as a region is going to decide our future. There is a civic election on right now, it is as good a time as any for that debate to start.

James Murray