North Shore community sees new retail investment as city prepares to welcome 400-500 mining workers
Daryl Skworchinski, the administrative director of Marathon, said there had been a “palpable buzz” in the community along the north shore of Lake Superior in recent months.
The emergence of new companies – along with Generation Mining’s announcement that it was taking full control of its palladium and copper project – has injected a burst of excitement into the local economy.
On December 8, Toronto-based Generation announced it would acquire Stillwater’s 16.5 percent stake in the transaction, making it the sole shareholder.
This is good news for the local economy, as the proposed mine is expected to attract between 400 and 500 new workers to the city – and plenty of spinoff opportunities – once it starts operating.
If government permits are granted in early 2022, an 18-month construction period for the surface mine will begin. Commercial mining begins tentatively in late 2023 or early 2024.
“There has been a few things recently that have shown that the project is really gaining momentum,” Skworchinski said. “One that we saw locally was the expansion in the size of the Generation team in the field.
“When you invest time, money, and resources in people to move the project forward, you know, it’s a positive thing, as opposed to seeing two or three gatekeepers working on the project. “
The addition of two fast food franchises – Tim Hortons and Subway – to the local fast food scene is another cause of excitement.
“When you see corporate franchises like that, when they move into your community, you know they’ve done their homework, they know what the future looks like from a numbers standpoint and they are confident in their decisions. commercial, ”said Skworchinski. .
Neighboring Biigtigong Nishnaabeg First Nation has also provided support for Marathon, partnering with the municipality on plans to transform the former Marathon Pulp factory site into a port authority on Lake Superior.
“We see the great potential around a port authority from a logistical point of view,” said Skworchinski. “Not only to support Generation and its ability to move product in and out via water, but we’ve also had conversations with forestry companies and the Greenstone Gold Project is very interested in the use of Marathon.
“It really complements our economic development strategy and strengthens our partnership with our First Nations partner, which is also one of the things we want to do moving forward.
The buzz reminds Skworchinski, who was born and raised in Marathon, of another boom period and a similar sense of local optimism and momentum, during the days of Hemlo Gold Mines in the 1980s.
“The marathon was going to bring together 10,000 people, but we never made it,” Skworchinski said. “But there is so much that we have learned through this process that I think we are applying now.”
Several council members and others working in the municipality experienced the boom of the mid-1980s, Skworchinski said, which gave their decision-making process important context.
“We have this historic experience around our board and the senior leadership table of wanting to make sure that we support the developments, but make sure that we take full advantage of any opportunities that come with it,” he said. .
“Mainly the secondary business sector.”
With the expected growth comes some challenges as well, Skworchinski said, especially as the city prepares to welcome the new workers.
“[Population growth] creates a challenge and an opportunity, ”he said. “We need to increase our housing stock, so we’ll see new multi-residential developments happening in the new year, with a few projects expected to have shovels in the ground in January.”
Although the details are still under wraps, the city is also starting discussions with a developer / builder to bring in between 25 and 50 new units between 2022 and 2023. They have also responded to requests from various investors, including hoteliers.
A second challenge, said Skworchinski, relates to human resources. Currently, administrators have to deal with a limited number of people in different roles at the municipal level.
“Resources, energy and people. There is not much to do, ”said Skworchinski. “Fortunately, our administrative team has a lot of experience in this type of project. “
They also pride themselves on their ability to bond with potential partners, Skworchinski said.
“We use a very, I will say, informal process to look at these projects… first we develop the relationships and then when there is a point where there is an investment or a development, we get into the legal aspects around it. structuring agreements and things like that. “
Hoping to capitalize on any interest and likely investment in Marathon, Skworchinski also plans to resubmit to council a long-standing plan to build a new 72,000-square-foot community center – including a swimming pool, a active life center and 1,000 places. arena – at the south-eastern end of town.
“We need this type of facility,” he added. “Quality of life has always been a hallmark of this advice and investing in quality of life.
Plans for the installation, he said, which began in 2015, included two public consultations.
“This is a project that we have on the books and the board wants to see a realistic management plan in 2022 and how we can fund it.”
If successful, Skworchinski said, the excavators could hit the ground “in the not too distant future”.
“I think it’s fun working on forward looking projects,” he said. “as opposed to dealing with things like pandemics which really seem to take all of your energy away.”
This article is one in a series focusing on progressive communities in Northern Ontario seizing opportunities to position themselves for economic growth.