About a year ago at this time, Thompson was awaiting the last round of layoffs from Vale’s Manitoba Operations and approaching the end of an era as nickel mining operations in Thompson, for the first time in their history, prepared to move from a fully integrated model that took nickel from the ground and refined it into its final product, to a mining-and-milling model, in which ore would be extracted and milled and then shipped off to Sudbury, Ont. for smelting and refining.
At the time, many people were – justifiably – concerned about what this change might mean for Thompson.
Looking back, the transition has been hard, especially for those who lost their jobs, but Thompson is not on the ropes economically, at least not yet, though the local economy has absorbed some pretty heavy body blows as a result of Vale shrinking its Thompson operations.
On the bright side, layoffs resulting from the transition were often lower than the company initially predicted. Fewer people losing their jobs meant fewer people leaving town and more money continuing to circulate through the Thompson economy. And certainly there have been good signs in Thompson since smelting and refining operations came to end in July of last year.
We have seen McDonald’s franchise owner and operator Brett O’Meara put his money where his mouth is and invest a lot of it in tearing down his old store and rebuilding a new one. Similarly, Walmart has greatly expanded the grocery items it offers by renovating to become a Supercentre, an indication that that company believes the foundation underpinning the Thompson retail economy, at the very least, is still solid.