The hub of the Rainy River District in Northwestern Ontario, Fort Frances is the oldest community west of Lake Superior. Connected by the U.S. border to International Falls, Minnesota, Fort Frances’ location has made it a great spot for those traveling frequently between borders. Located on Rainy Lake, the town is a popular destination for bass fishers, hosting the annual Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship.
Land Area, km2
Manufacturing, Accommodation and Food Services
International Falls, Minnesota
At the heart of the town is strong community engagement. ‘Pulling for Peace’, which celebrates International Peaceful Borders Day, invites community members from both Fort Frances and International Falls to participate in a friendly tug-of-war competition where a 1,200 foot rope is strung across the river between the two towns. Fort Frances’ Curling Club also won $25,000 from Kraft’s 2013 Celebration Tour to update their facilities.
Once a one-industry town, Fort Frances is now a community in transition. Earlier in 2014, the town’s main employer, Resolute Forest Products, closed its doors, leaving the town in a state of limbo. Rumours of potential buyers interested in re-opening the plant surfaced, and the townspeople remained cautiously optimistic that the mill would open again. And recently it was announced that the mill would indeed re-open again, and employ 235 people. There was also talk of another potential opportunity coming to Fort Frances – a mining project anticipated to create numerous jobs in the area. The environmental study for the mine has since been completed and will soon become a reality, employing 635 people initially.
Even as things are looking up for Fort Frances, the town’s demographics have been shifting. A large number of youth and workers have left the community to pursue both education and employment opportunities elsewhere. This has left a gap in Fort Frances – and with many new employment opportunities on the horizon, the community is bound to experience growing pains and skills shortages. It is going to prove challenging for the community to upskill underutilized labour market segments and recruit those with the right skills to fill these new positions.
Though Fort Frances’ employment horizon may have looked uncertain for a while, the town is moving towards accelerated growth. With this rapid growth it is important for the community to plan ahead and make sure that they able to manage both the changes and challenges that will occur.