How a northern Ontario fly-in fishing business was able to expand
With multiple outpost camps in the Algoma region, it takes guests 25 minutes by plane to get to some of the best fishing in the north.
"Our lakes offer pike, walleye, whitefish, lake trout. We have a variety, bass as well,” said Todd Grignon, of Glassy Bay Outfitters. "But primarily, we target for our trophy northerns, as well as our abundance of walleye for our customers."
In Elliot Lake, it’s a fishing experience like no other. Established in 2012, Glassy Bay Outfitters has been showing tourists some of the best spots to cast a line.
"They enjoy the remoteness of what we have to offer," Grignon said. "These are outpost camps. We have upgraded them with today’s standards, like a lot of people more or less like the remoteness but they also want the accommodations of what today’s technology has to offer."
It’s an experience that gives a glimpse of northern Ontario, he said.
"The location that we are located, they experience a lot of wildlife. We have the golden eagles and the bald eagles and the osprey, and they see the moose, lots of wildlife for them to enjoy while we’re there. Also, we’re up in the mountains and it’s some breathtaking scenery," he said.
Looking for a way to expand the business and draw even more visitors to the area, the company has undergone two expansion projects with the help of the East Algoma Community Futures Development Corporation (CFDC).
"Primarily, the first one was to build an airplane hanger to accommodate our needs, and also we rent out space to other local people that have planes to store inside. It’s also for our main office as well," Grignon explained.
"Then secondly, we went to expand to acquiring an operating certificate, which we in the past used to depend on some people, but the availability wasn’t there at all times. So therefore it forced us to expand and have our own operating certificate and we’ve expanded it to also purchasing a Beaver (aircraft) at this time and we’re looking at a second one as we speak."
The two expansions were made possible with the CFDC’s expertise.
"They needed somebody that understood the tourism sector," said Shawn Heard, the executive director of East Algoma CFDC. "They needed somebody that understood the local situation and they wanted a flexible funder that could work with them."
The partnership was more than just funding, it came with local knowledge, advice, and the common goal to continue growing in the north.
"I’ve been at this for 20 years now and every day has been a blessing," Heard said. "I really do enjoy working with clients directly and understanding their challenges and helping them get through those challenges and be successful in the long run."
Over the last 35 years, the East Algoma CFDC has invested over $30 million, Heard said, and has a current roster of over 70 businesses they’re assisting.
“We keep ourselves well up-to-date on what’s out there and really try to find the best solution for the businesses themselves and to really look at their long-term viability. We can help short-term, we can help long-term, and we’ve got clients that we’ve been doing that with for many years," he said.
Right now, Glassy Bay Outfitters said it doesn’t plan on going back to the CFDC right now, but hasn’t ruled out more help in the future.
"They said they’re ready for us at anytime, just knock on the door and they’d be glad to help us in future endeavors," Grignon said.
Adding that the CFDC really did help them during their last two expansions.
"He helped us with the application, and in doing so… all questions were answered and the application flew by very smoothly. Without his help and him getting involved in expanding our business, I don’t think we would have been as quickly accepted as we were,” he said.
Grignon said Glassy Bay Outfitters is already at 90 per cent capacity for next year.
"We’ve got 100 per cent repeat business for our fishing for next year. So we can’t ask for anything better than that."
Adding, "people were very positive in the services that we’re offering at this time."
Now with almost 10 years in business in Elliot lake, two expansion projects with the CFDC, and an audience that loves to fish, he said this is just the beginning.
By next year he is hoping to include ice fishing and access to some of the camps through trails – making the experience more accessible for everyone.