Branching out beyond steel production: City moving forward with community adjustment plan.

Author:Kelly, Lindsay

After an extensive community consultation process, the City of Sault Ste. Marie is moving forward with a plan to help its city grow and diversify beyond steel production.

Recommendations from the city's Community Adjustment Committee were released in a final report in November, 2017, and are currently in the process of being carried out.

Launched in 2016, the Community Adjustment Committee is a direct response to Algoma (formerly Essar Steel Algoma) filing for protection under the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act (CCAA) in November, 2015. It's the company's third restructuring since 1993 and is currently ongoing.

The recommendations follow a detailed, 18-month-long consultation process that involved input sessions, focus groups and online surveys to take the temperature of the community, noted Tom Vair, deputy chief administrative officer (CAO) of the city's Community Development and Enterprise Services department.

Sault Ste. Marie received $200,000 from the Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development to fund the venture.

The process allowed the community to "one, get a handle on where we were," and "two, make recommendations on a path forward," Vair said.

"The recommendations are in place now, and the community as a whole--because it really is a community plan; we're working with a lot of people and organizations--are in the next phase of implementing that plan."

Recommendations come under four pillars: economic diversity and growth, social equity, cultural vitality, and environment and energy.

Vair said the committee consulted best practices from other communities around North America, and the four-pillared approach is one that's been used successfully in other regions.

"Intuitively, it makes a lot of sense," Vair said. "If your young children aren't able to finish school and learning the skills they need, you don't have the community leaders in the future workforce. If your community doesn't have a vibrant arts and culture scene, then it's difficult to retain or attract people to stay in your community."

In the past, a major focus was on attracting and retaining jobs to the city, Vair said. That's still important, but the city now believes that other elements are equally crucial to making the Sault an attractive city for residents, business owners, investors and visitors.

Under the economic growth and prosperity pillar, an emphasis has been placed on information technology and growing the city's research sector, including...

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