June 10, 2004

In places like Red Lake and Ear Falls, capitalizing on the areas natural resources and beauty has been embedded in the local economy since the first gold rush of the 1920’s.  Since that time, mining and forestry have been the areas two main industries.

In 2000, the local CFDCChukuni Communities Development Corporation, and 11 community partners got together to brainstorm over viable ways to diversify the local economy.  Linda Craven, Chukuni Economic Development Coordinator says, “We all recognized that the two main stimulants for our local economy had a finite life span.  We started to explore other avenues that would allow our communities to continue to thrive and prosper.”

The group did their homework, and presented their case for a three-year Red Lake Touring Region Tourism/Marketing Initiative to FedNor.  In the spring of 2003, they were thrilled to receive $439,490 for the project.  With additional contributions from partners, the initiative’s budget exceeded one million dollars.

The area of Red Lake has typically been viewed as a great destination for hunters and fishers from early spring to late fall.  The goal of this initiative is to expand the type of tourists attracted to the area, the time frame in which they visit, and the reason why they come.  “We want to make this a four-season family destination,” says Duncan Wilson, Mayor of Red Lake.  “We currently attract 70,000 to 100,000 tourists each season, which is quite incredible given that we’re an area of 6,200 people.  We firmly believe that this initiative can help us to double those numbers.  We’re looking to attract a new kind of tourist, not just repeats.  As well, we want to capitalize on Eco-Tourism and we are working hard to position ourselves on the right side of that wave.”

There are plans to develop a website, brochures and solid marketing strategies to reach tourists from as far away as Europe.  Linda Craven notes, “The momentum behind this initiative is strong.  For the first time in community history, these partners are working together for the betterment of the Region.  It’s been tremendous to watch the group’s focus change over a short span of time from, 'What’s in it for me?' to 'What’s in it for us?'  It's simply fantastic.”

Working together has reaped many benefits for all the partners involved.  Jim Desmarais, Mayor for the Township of Ear Falls says, “The Marketing Initiative has allowed all of us to benefit from having a professional, polished look and feel to everything we produce.  The sum of all of our dollars and efforts really makes a splash when we work together.  The CFDC is really the glue that holds it all together.  We couldn’t have done this without them.”