Thunder Bay – The future is in the hands of youth

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SHIFT Network young professionals are the future and current leaders in Thunder Bay
SHIFT Network young professionals are the future and current leaders in Thunder Bay
SHIFT Thunder Bay’s Young Professionals Network is pleased to announce that the 3rd Annual Drive Away Hunger was a success with collecting 590 pounds of non-perishable food items for the Regional Food Distribution Association (RFDA)
SHIFT Thunder Bay’s Young Professionals Network is pleased to announce that the 3rd Annual Drive Away Hunger was a success with collecting 590 pounds of non-perishable food items for the Regional Food Distribution Association (RFDA)

THUNDER BAY – The City of Thunder Bay is blessed with the presence of many positive, involved and engaged young professionals.

Young professionals in Thunder Bay are here building their careers and building their lives in our community.

The number of young professionals who dedicate hours to our city, and to the many charities are massive.

Some are life-long residents; some are new residents in our city. Some have left and returned.

What is certain is Thunder Bay needs the energy, enthusiasm and dedication of these residents.

Over the course of the Civic Election campaign, many are suggesting that without an Event Centre young people will leave our community.

That approach is far too shortsighted. It actually demeans many of the young professionals in our community. It is like a parent thinking that television is a tool to raise a child. An Event Centre or lack of it isn’t what will retain young professionals.

What seems to be missed are that large numbers of young professionals are here in Thunder Bay, and many have come back to Thunder Bay to make their homes and careers.

Stephanie Ash, the CEO/President of Firedog Communications Inc. states, “Thunder Bay attracts young professionals because of the great network of support and community that exists. This is a place where it is easy to connect, learn from and collaborate with other like-minded young people”.

“Organizations like SHIFT are a key factor in attracting and more importantly, retaining young professionals from diverse sectors and backgrounds,” adds Ash.

Many young professionals having completed their education have returned to our community to build their futures.

During the mayor’s debate at the Community Auditorium, a young Lakehead University student, said he will graduate this spring and have to leave Thunder Bay. That student explained there are no jobs for him here in the city.

Perhaps that message resonated, or hopefully resonated through to the candidates, and more importantly, to the wider audience across the city.

The issues concerning all residents in Thunder Bay are similar.

Infrastructure, taxes, crime and overall direction of the city are key issues across all demographics. Building a modern and thriving community means building a community with the needed balance.

Suggesting that the solution for our community lies only in a building is to completely ignore the incredible energy, enthusiasm and skills that our city needs.

Perhaps, and with all due respect to the candidate’s what is needed is a solid future that includes career opportunities.

We could have the world’s best entertainment in our city every night, but without a good solid well paying job, few people could afford to go.

That is not to suggest part of a growing an vibrant city isn’t having the balance and that an event centre isn’t needed. It is just that it isn’t a total package solution for everything in our community.

So what are solid solutions?

Lakehead University and Confederation College, along with the Law School and Medical School are investing a great deal of time and effort in finding the best and brightest students.

The City of Thunder Bay should perhaps consider investing effort to keep those students here after graduation. It wouldn’t be that hard. All the City and CEDC have to do is look at the kinds of programs at the institutions and start working to attract employers to the city.

It is time for long-term planning.

It is time for positive effort and action.

What Thunder Bay needs to focus on the economy, and for this huge hockey town to learn a lesson from Wayne Gretzky.

Living in Calgary, and being a Calgary Flames fan, you would get caught up in the “Battle of Alberta”. The Flames would often see a lead over the Oilers vanish.

The lesson from “The Great One” was that you go where the puck is going to be.

For Thunder Bay that means positioning our city where the jobs are going to be, not ten, twenty or thirty years ago, but five, ten or more years from now. Tall task, yes.

Thunder Bay Chamber of Commerce has released a report that hits hard at the hit tax rate in Thunder Bay.
Thunder Bay City Hall

With all respect to the candidates on the stage of the Community Auditorium, some of that kind of vision just wasn’t there.

It was in some cases a look longingly to the past, and in others of looking to repeat the past with primary industry dreams.

Only a few short years ago, the theme for our future was moving to the knowledge based economy – and our city has many positive moves happening on that level. The Thunder Bay Regional Research Institute, the Northwest Innovation Centre, and the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre are all making a huge impact in our economic future.

At last night’s debate, a student who will graduate from Lakehead University shared that once he graduates, he will have to leave. There is nothing here for him.

Hopefully that message was heard loud and clear.

A job, a career, that is what makes it possible for a young person to put down roots in the community and to build their lives here.

The past allowed young people to get a job at Great Lakes, the grain elevators, or in the woodlands. Those jobs paid well, and allowed workers to purchase homes, camps, boats, snow machines, and raise their families.

Today those kinds of opportunities are not as obvious in our city. There are some amazing new and innovative jobs, but there is a higher level of skill needed.

Thunder Bay offers a wide range of opportunities; young professionals across the city are making their mark. Filmmakers, videographers, musicians, scientists, business owners are all finding a home in Thunder Bay.

What should the focus be?

Perhaps far greater engagement with young professionals?

Perhaps less fear of the future and more hope?

“Thunder Bay is full of Opportunity. You can create what ever you want here and succeed if you’re willing to put in the effort- whether it’s construction, communications, finance or web design- You can build your own opportunities here in Thunder Bay- therefore the possibilities are endless,” states Kateria Skaarup.

“The problem is that a lot of people have been programmed from a young age that there are no jobs here by their elders- so it shouldn’t be a surprise when they get older they choose to move away- it’s programming”, adds Kateria.

“My great great grandfather moved to PA in the late 1800s from Sicily and ran construction crews at the docks and elevators- he came here for the opportunities and succeeded”.

“Port Arthur and Fort William were built by immigrants moving here and building their dreams- when did that stop?”

“It didn’t actually- as a Board Director for Shift I have had the privilege of meeting many young and motivated professionals from all over Canada that have migrated here- and are thriving”, adds Kateria.

“In 2005 my husband and I started Skaarup Construction- it’s now 2014 and we’re booming- Building our dreams everyday – We’ll never leave!”

For those worried about the future of our city, maybe getting out from under the cloud, and looking at the glass as half full should be a goal.

If we all believe that Thunder Bay’s best days are ahead of us, it will be. Our city is filled with people who know that is true. Those are the people who will make the real differences in our future.

Not all are what one might call “young”, but maybe youth is as much about attitude as anything else.

Lets go Thunder Bay our future awaits.

James Murray

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