FUTURE: Sault Ste. Marie

Background

Sault Ste. Marie has long been considered a 'one-industry town' commencing with the establishment of the steelworks at this site in the late 1890s, and peaking in the early 1980s when employment levels reached approximately 12-14,000 employees in a community of 85,000 people. 

In November 2015, Essar Steel Algoma was granted creditor protection for its $1.2B debt, the latest in a series of bankruptcy proceedings spanning not only decades but indeed a century of the 'boom and bust' economy of the global steel industry. This event sparked a sense of even greater urgency amongst Sault Ste. Marie residents that substantial changes were needed to address the multiple challenges facing the community . 

Sault Ste. Marie has a number of strengths, including its citizens who are committed to creating a vibrant and prosperous community. In March 2016, an initiative was approved by Sault Ste. Marie City Council to pursue Provincial funding to assist with the formation of a Community Adjustment Committee (CAC) that would study and make recommendations on how to build a more resilient community. The CAC had membership from a wide variety of sectors including business, economic development organizations, education, employment service providers, health services, the municipality, social services and unions.  

CAC members utilized information from past community planning initiatives, undertook research examining best practices from other jurisdictions, and engaged almost 5,000 community members through a variety of direct workshops, online surveys and sub-committee meetings.  They decided early in its mandate to utilize a four pillar approach to community development. These four pillars are:

1. Cultural Vitality

2. Economic Growth & Diversity

3. Environmental Sustainability

4. Social Equity 

With these four pillars in mind, the CAC then developed fact sheets for a number of sectors in the community relevant to community development. These fact sheets were called “Reality Checks” and they were placed on a website with accompanying videos to engage the public and stimulate feedback. 

In July 2017, a summary report was provided to City Council for information and in August, 2017 City Council approved the allocation of funds to support the implementation of the recommendations. 

While the carriage of the implementation of the recommendations would pass to the City staff, the CAC recommended the formation of a Community Development Roundtable (CDR). The CDR is intended to ensure the involvement and participation of a broad base of different community organizations in the implementation process. To learn more about the CDR, click here. 

It is believed that in order for this plan to be successful it must continue to be a community plan that is supported by a broad base of community organizations and citizens. The financial and human resources are now in place to support the implementation over the long term through FutureSSM.