An aerial shot of Kenora, Ontario

Welcome to Invest in Ontario’s latest in a series of regional spotlights showcasing the diverse municipalities spread across our province. Each month we post a feature highlighting a unique region and what makes it special from a business and lifestyle standpoint. As always, it will be in their own words. Here’s the next in our lineup from our friends in Kenora, a city in Northern Ontario, approximately 50 km east of the province of Manitoba’s border and a two-hour drive from the international transport and foreign trade hub CentrePort Canada.

Welcome to Northern Ontario!

The city of Kenora is perched on the north shore of Lake of the Woods, with 14,522 islands and 104,600 kilometres of pristine shoreline. Kenora has a population of 15,100 with a service area of approximately 25,000. In the summer months, the population doubles with visitors from neighbouring provinces and the Midwest U.S. states who are drawn to this water-based playground.

For companies looking to invest in the north, the reach of Kenora’s service area and its proximity to various markets is undeniable—particularly for those looking to do business on an international scale.

Access international markets from the centre of North America

Kenora is the geographic centre of Canada and is located in the heart of the continent with coveted centralized access to markets across North America.

Located along the Trans-Canada Highway, Kenora is just 50 km from the Manitoba border and a short two-hour drive from CentrePort Canada, the country’s largest tri-modal inland port and Foreign Trade Zone. This proximity provides Kenora businesses with direct access to national and international rail, truck and air cargo operations.

While Kenora stands out for its exceptional quality of life, significant investments in local business incentive programs, economic development, commercial infrastructure and tourism make Kenora ripe for growth, recovery and expansion.

Commitment to business growth and recovery

Kenora’s economy is supported by several key sectors, including manufacturing, health care, public administration, forestry, mining services, culture and recreation, construction and tourism.

Daniel Reynard
The City of Kenora’s Mayor, Daniel Reynard

Over the past year, the city has prioritized economic development even further with a new recovery plan in response to the global pandemic.

Approved by city council in July of 2020, the Kenora Recovery Plan showcases a strategy focused on bringing tourists back to the city, restoring downtown activity, growing the business community and building infrastructure that supports economic recovery. “This plan identifies initiatives that the city can undertake to assist businesses in responding to COVID-19, including major infrastructure projects such as the redevelopment of the Harbourfront area,” says Mayor Dan Reynard. “We are looking forward to partnering with the private sector to revitalize the waterfront.”

The plan has already shown signs of success.

Despite unprecedented global challenges brought on by COVID-19, building permit activity in Kenora increased by 37.9 per cent in 2020, signalling the resilience of the city’s economy.

As part of their economic growth efforts, Kenora has also established three Community Improvement Plans (CIPs), which provide grants and incentives for development in particular project areas throughout the municipality.

A variety of financial assistance is available through these programs—in fact, since 2017, Kenora has invested over $400,000 in CIP projects resulting in $1.3 million of private sector contributions.

One such company that has benefited from these programs is Atlantic Industries Limited (AIL), which specializes in innovative and value-engineered bridge and infrastructure manufacturing and sales and operates coast-to-coast in Canada. AIL celebrated the opening of its new 20,000 square-foot Kenora location in October 2019. “Completing our Canada-wide network, our new Kenora location easily serves Northern Ontario and Manitoba. Kenora’s Economic Development Team was very supportive in helping us get established in a great facility with ample land area. We are very happy to be part of Kenora’s growing business community,” says Jason Sherwood, AIL’s Vice President Operations, International and Western Canada.

Opening of AIL in Kenora, Ontario
Premier Ford attends the opening of AIL in Kenora, Ontario

Driving tourism

Kenora prizes its natural beauty and rich culture. A premier boating destination in North America, this outdoor playground is also steeped in local charm—from craft beer to a vibrant arts scene.

As a popular destination and lifestyle community, the city has recently invested in a multi-phase downtown revitalization project, multi-season events space and a new Discovery Centre, which welcomes residents and visitors to learn about life on Lake of the Woods.

Investing in the redevelopment of Kenora’s Harbourfront is also a top priority for the revitalization.

The city completed the Harbourfront Business Development Plan in December 2019, which identifies a balance of public amenity improvements and commercial opportunities for the waterfront area located in the heart of the Harbourtown Centre. Council has approved the beginning implementation stages of this $25.2-million capital project, and the city will be undertaking a detailed design of the area in 2021 to move the development forward. Significant improvements in this area will continue to create an environment to foster tourism investment and growth and create private-sector partnership opportunities.

With no development charges, prime access to markets, high quality of life and a labour force to support development and growth, Kenora is well-positioned for continued investment in its key sectors.

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