TIMMINS -- On Thursday, the Timmins Chamber of Commerce hosted the Mayor’s State of the City address, held online this year because of COVID.

Pre-pandemic, it would be a more elaborate affair, usually a luncheon at a local hall. But the webinar-style session allowed chamber members to hear straight from the city’s lead politician about progress being made amidst a global pandemic.

Pirie said the business sector needs to grow because 80 per cent of the city’s tax base is residential. In the next breath, he said was happy to announce a new venture downtown.

The city’s first department store, which has sat empty for the last six years, has a new owner.

"That beautiful building is still there and it’s becoming a European market concept," said Pirie. "I’m all over that."

Cindy Campbell, Downtown Timmins Business Improvement Area executive director, said the mayor’s state of the address was a good time to make the announcement. Campbell said the building was purchased last summer and revitalization of the building — to bring it back to its former glory — will begin this summer.

'Jobs we need'

"Certainly it’s going to be a huge anchor on Third Avenue, but more importantly they’re going to employ 20 to 50 people," she said. "That’s jobs -- jobs we need. They’re bringing in products that we don’t have right now in downtown Timmins ... It’s really going to make for a much better shopping experience for everyone in the city."

Campbell said downtown has a good working relationship with the city, and Pirie added that "nothing will happen" in Timmins without good relations with Indigenous peoples.

In an interview with CTV News, the chamber's CAO said those relationships are improving.

“Our businesses are getting better at integrating and understanding that we have some time to make up and need to have a different approach to how we build that trust,” said Keitha Robson. "Trust doesn’t always just come in the form of a cheque."

When the chamber heard about the idea out of Sudbury about forming a northern bubble during the COVID-19 pandemic, Pirie said there needs to be more discussion.

"I don’t know how we create a northern bubble when we have the cases we have throughout the north, including Sudbury," said Pirie.

He also said work continues to figure out how to create a bypass road for transport trucks and he said improvements are being made with the ways people with opioid addictions are treated.