“The rapidity of growth and change that a boom town experiences, and which is at the heart of the concept of a ‘boom town’, results in a continuous, relentless, unabated assault on many residents’ quality of life.”
~ from Community Planning in Boom Towns: Why it’s not working very well and how to do it more effectively, by Hans Bleiker
Read that closely. Then vow never to say we weren’t warned.
Atikokan is on the cusp of a boom, and although a number of worthwhile initiatives are being pursued, we do not see anything happening on a most vital front.
Atikokan needs a clear plan to make sure a mine brings new families to town, rather than a fly-in, fly-out workforce.
Jobs will not automatically mean residents. Canada’s work-force is far more mobile than it has ever been. People will work here and live elsewhere… witness Red Lake, Fort Mac, etc. (How many Atikokanites are doing just that – living here and working away?)
And that will be the case here whether or not a mining work camp is set up.
If we don’t have a plan and program to recruit resident workers, if we leave it to the private sector to take care of mine workers, then all kinds of temporary worker accommodation will spring up and it will be very easy for miners to work their shifts and go home to some other town.
If we allow that to happen, then all a mine will produce for Atikokan will be a giant bedroom for mine workers. That will completely undo our efforts to make Atikokan a more attractive place to live.
All kinds of communities and organizations market to attract visitors. Why can’t we market to attract residents?
How do we make it easy for a family to uproot itself and relocate in Atikokan? Good-paying jobs are the most important piece, of course. What else do we need?
Housing is going to be an issue. We commend Council and the AEDC for their far-sighted decision to pursue a housing study; it’s due for release shortly. It should go a long way toward telling us what we need to attract residents, but we need to take it a step further. How will we meet the housing need?
Do we just leave it to developers? Or do we jump on this once in a lifetime opportunity to build up Atikokan and plan to make sure the homes families will need are here and ready for them to buy?
Maybe we need to get $10 million in impact agreement money to build 40 or 50 homes. And then only sell them to families that move here. We could make several of them recruitment homes – rent them as trial run homes for families to find out what a great place this is to live.
Off the wall? We build tourist attractions; why can’t we build resident attractions?
How else can we make it easier for families to relocate here?
What about a ‘knock your socks off’ welcome wagon program? Why couldn’t we pay retired Atikokanites to work for us as ambassadors supporting and encouraging potential new residents?
How about a full program of activities for new miners and their families? Ski instructors, curling instructors, fishing guides, hunting courses, paddling programs… you name it, let’s show people how to love living in Atikokan.
Not with volunteers, either. Make it worthwhile for people to get involved in recruiting new Atikokanites. Pay them to do more of what they already love to do, and then promote the heck out of it with potential new residents.
You ever dream of having a real music program in Atikokan? How about an arts centre? Why couldn’t we set such things up as a way of encouraging residential growth?
Let’s put our best foot forward. We need a creative, aggressive, fully thought-out plan to grow Atikokan’s residential population. Let’s get the help we need to do that, and then go to work maximizing the best chance we are ever going to get to revivify Atikokan.
~ Michael McKinnon