Minister arrives with cheque book open – by Kris Ketonen (Thunder Bay Chronicle-Journal – February 20, 2013)

Thunder Bay Chronicle-Journal is the daily newspaper of Northwestern Ontario.

The Thunder Bay airport is expanding its industrial park with the help of a grant from the federal government. The $1.5 million given to the airport on Tuesday was one of several business grants announced by FedNor Minister Tony Clement in Thunder Bay on Tuesday.

In all, Clement announced that more than $4 million would go to various Thunder Bay companies and agencies. “This is a big announcement for Thunder Bay,” Clement said in an interview.

“It shows, here in Thunder Bay, the depth of entrepreneurial innovation that’s going on. “This shows that these economic building blocks are working in Thunder Bay,” he said at the airport.

The money granted to the airport will allow the creation of several new industrial lots along Derek Burney Drive, along with the extension of the road, said airport CEO Scott McFadden.

“We actually broke ground already in anticipation of getting an early start for the next construction season this summer,” McFadden said. “It’s all very timely. We have a need for more airside accessible lots, and this should create at least three.”

The money will also create land-accessible lots off Derek Burney Drive, McFadden said.

Another $739,900 announced Tuesday will fund two Northwestern Ontario Innovation Centre (NOIC) initiatives.
One, NOIC manager Judy Sander said, is the establishment of a new advanced manufacturing and development lab at Confederation College.

The lab, she said, will help local businesses do “high-end, prototype, small-run niche manufacturing that’s not available anywhere in the region.

“We hope to reach out to existing manufacturers, small innovators and small businesses that are outsourcing stuff that we can do in-house here,” Sander said.

“There are demands from a lot of different perspectives. . . . The small guy, who wants to develop something that ends up going to Minneapolis and does it, and never comes back here.

“But there are also the niche guys. Say Thunder Bay Aviation, who can’t get the precision for some of their parts done locally . . . and he ends up outsourcing that.”

The lab, then, will include high-end precision equipment that will allow for small runs of products that can then be market tested.

The lab, which could see its first piece of equipment installed in May, will eat up about $439,000 of the FedNor grant.
The remainder of the money will see NOIC establish the Northwestern Ontario Information and Communications Technology Network, which will serve as a development organization that trains regional firms in the use of e-business initiatives, such as mobile strategies.

Clement also on Tuesday announced $1.5 million for PARO, which will help the agency deliver workshops, training sessions, coaching and mentoring services for women entrepreneurs and business owners.

Also announced Tuesday was $180,000 for Qwan Technologies. The money will help the company develop a management software system that will enable caseworkers to better analyse and view data, speed up client evaluations and develop individualized treatment strategies for children with autism.

Finally, a further $500,000 will go to XLV Diagnostics Inc., which will help the company develop and build a low-cost digital mammography device.
The funds to Qwan Technologies and XLV Diagnostics are “conditionally repayable” to FedNor.

Clement rounded out his visit to Thunder Bay by making a luncheon address to the Thunder Bay Chamber of Commerce, which included remarks about the Ring of Fire, which has been placed in his portfolio.