North Bay Chamber's jack of all trades looks forward to refocusing in the new year.
Starting in 1989, Patti Carr would trek home from Wilfred Laurier University every spring to staff the North Bay tourist information centre. The centre, run by the Chamber of Commerce, was housed in the Dionne Quints Museum, and it was there that Carr started a career that's spanned over 25 years and directly impacted hundreds in the community.
You would be hard pressed to find more of a North Bay local than Patti Carr. North Bay-born, raised, and returned, Carr is now the executive director of the chamber and can't imagine living anywhere else.
Three years of studying psychology and classics in Waterloo was enough to satisfy Carr's curiosity. She moved back to North Bay for good in 1991, her plans to pursue law school after graduation foiled by her growing passion for working at the chamber.
"I'd really wanted to come back. I like small towns and Northern Ontario is what I truly know, and I enjoyed my summer months working locally and having my family around me," said Carr.
A full-time position opened up shortly after she graduated, and she moved from being a summer student to a regular employee.
As the years passed, Carr gained new responsibilities at the chamber, and took on roles in membership services, special events, and as an executive assistant, before becoming the executive director in 1999.
"I've had to be a jack of all trades," said Carr. "You have to know quite a bit about every sector of business."
The broad scope of the chamber position has allowed Carr to work on innovative projects across various fields.
Nearly a decade ago, Carr worked on a pilot project that provided Ontario Works and Ontario Disability Support Program clients with opportunities for meaningful employment in the northeastern Ontario region. In just under two years, 750 people were placed. The program continues today under Nipissing Social Services.
"It's very nice to see when these clients are successful, and not down on their luck or with low self-esteem," said Carr.
Projects that helped people were complemented by projects that helped businesses.
Another chamber project, Team Northern Ontario, focused on connecting businesses across the North to develop export markets for the region. The results were numerous international trade missions, improved local business connections, and such success that FedNor took it in-house.
On top of the usual business-related projects, the tourism centre and Dionne Quints Museum required a lot of Carr's attention over the years, but that's changed recently. Traffic has died down to the centre and museum, and the chamber board decided to refocus on business advocacy. They moved the chamber to North Bay's downtown in 2015 and closed the museum and tourism centre. Tourism information is still available virtually, and Carr said they are deciding what to do with the museum at the moment. She said she feels relieved about the changes.
"Instead of getting stretched thin, I'm getting back to the core duties of this position, the advocacy work for the members," said Carr. "We're really happy to be down here with the other businesses, and now basically what I do day in and day out is I either fight or congratulate government on things that are important to business, or maybe a challenge to business."
While Carr may be streamlining her work life, her extracurricular activities keep her as busy as ever. North Bay residents can find her volunteering at the Cancer Society's Colours of Hope run, at the Summer in the Park festival or running 50/50 draws at local hockey games with her son who is a "nutbar" for the sport. Even after 27 years, there's no sign of Carr slowing down anytime soon.
The well-travelled director of economic development and tourism in Kirkland Lake
Northern Ontario has a certain magnetism --maybe it's all the minerals. People leave for school or to travel, only to come back years later, seemingly unable to stay away. But they bring back more than just memories; they bring back experience and connections that are invaluable to the Northern economy, at least according to Wilfred Hass.
Hass is the director of economic development and tourism for the Town of Kirkland Lake, and he spent his time away before deciding to settle in the North.
Born and raised in Timmins, Hass first moved south in the mid-1980s to complete a bachelor's degree in history and philosophy at Guelph University, after which he plunged straight into a master's degree in international...