Luc Denault is seeing a lot more new faces in Smooth Rock Falls these days, which is bringing a smile to his.
A year ago, when the community, located just north of Timmins, announced a suite of incentives designed to entice new residents to town, nobody really knew what the response would be.
Denault, the town's CAO and economic development director, was hopeful, but he hadn't expected the thousands of inquiries that arrived from across Canada, resulting in new families moving in, a flurry of real estate sales, and the promise of new business.
"We were quite ecstatic once we had time to sit down and review and assess the outcome one year later," Denault said. "We're certainly surprised but pleased with the results."
Included in that plan were incentives such as land packages for 90 per cent below market value, some as cheap as $500; generous tax breaks for homeowners over three years; grants for business owners of up to 15 per cent of eligible costs; loan guarantees for construction projects for up to 50 per cent of construction costs; and a tax increment grant program for businesses.
The marketing scheme was part of a detailed 20-year strategic plan designed to rejuvenate the town of 1,330, which had dipped into economic uncertainty after Tembec permanently closed its pulp mill in 2006.
To date, 24 new families have relocated to Smooth Rock Falls, and one family has returned. A total of 49 properties have changed ownership, with a value of $3.5 million in real estate sales. Of those deals, six are commercial, three of which are tied to the establishment of new businesses.
"The process of converting a query of interest in Smooth Rock Falls to moving to town and opening a new business takes months and often years," Smooth Rock Mayor Michel Arseneault said in a town-issued press release.
"We're taking our time and doing our due diligence; we want to make sure both the individual or business and Smooth Rock Falls will benefit. We're excited about some of the current prospects and look forward to sharing more information in coming months when details have been finalized."
Denault said a quick, unofficial survey of new residents show they've found work in town and with nearby employers, such as the hospital, Ontario Power Generation, Detour Gold, and area pulp and paper mills. One young couple has relocated from southern Ontario, establishing property management and general maintenance businesses.
An early deal--in which a Toronto businessman...