PHOTO: Vic and Madge Prokopchuk with Chamber of Commerce board members Michael McKinnon, Kathie Brigham, Karen VanDoorne, and Lois Fenton.
The Atikokan Chamber of Commerce saluted Vic Prokopchuk – a member for over sixty years – for a lifetime of achievement in business and community building, at its annual business awards gala at the Legion Hall on May 18.
Vic Prokopchuk came to the Northwest in 1947, as a summer radio operator with Lands and Forest in Beardmore and Fort Frances. An electrician by trade, the lure of Steep Rock Iron Mines was hard to resist, and by 1949 he was settling in Atikokan.
That turned out to be a very lucky break for Atikokan, which has benefited greatly from his talents as forward-thinking builder of businesses and community.
Prokopchuk was among the first to realize the potential of cable television, and set up one of Ontario’s first cable TV services right here in 1955. Electronics and communications have been a lifelong passion for him, and even after he had sold his interests in the Atikokan cable system, he remained active in the business. He was brought in to help develop a cable and telephone system in the English Midlands in 1989-92.
And he was a key proponent of the expansion of internet and digital service in rural and Northern areas through the 1990s, working with both the federal and provincial governments. In 1991, he was part of the Northern Ontario telecom committee that brought the first high speed data stream to the Northwest, and eventually convinced Bell there was a solid business case to expand such services throughout the region.
Did you use your cel phone today? Thank Vic. He proposed the consortium – the municipalities of Atikokan, Fort Frances, and Thunder Bay – that built the tower network between the city and the Manitoba border that now links the region. Bell and Rogers didn’t want to be involved – then.
Long an active amateur radio enthusiast, he was a founding member of the Atikokan Amateur Radio Club, and was instrumental in its recent revival. It now plays a key role in the community’s emergency preparedness schemes.
In his younger days, Prokopchuk was active in the economic development efforts that began with the closure of the mines, and he remains directly involved to this day, as a member of the AEDC board. He helped lead the ad-hoc energy committee and the bio-energy research committee that represented the community so well in the provincial move away from coal-fired generation.
On the community development front, he’s been involved with countless groups over the years, including the ski club, Quetico Centre, the Ely-Atikokan canoe race, the Kiwanis Club, the Public Library Board, the airport committee, and the hospital board.
When Atikokan needed something, Vic went out and bent the ears of anyone and everyone who could help. When that failed, he did it himself. That’s how he got involved in businesses like the White Otter Inn (he was one of the original developers of that facility), the Progress (he was publisher from 1981 until 1994), and Four Seasons Travel, among several others.
He was launching new ventures, and actively searching out the next big thing, when he won the Northern Ontario Business entrepreneur of the year award. He was already over 60 at the time.
“Vic has been a dues paying member of the Chamber of Commerce for over sixty years, and he’s contributed far more than that with his vision, leadership, and willingness to roll up his sleeves and go after whatever was needed,” said Chamber director Michael McKinnon.