Town of Smooth Rock Falls opens industrial park to attract new businesses
On land where the people of Smooth Rock Falls once put a lot of faith is where new hope springs.
When Tembec closed its pulp mill in 2006, town officials said the feeling in town was very glum. The town's chief operating officer, Luc Denault, said, "businesses closed, long-time residents moved away and those who stayed thought Smooth Rock Falls may disappear completely."
Recently, the town opened an industrial park with 12 turn-key lots where the pulp mill once stood.
"The park itself is roughly $3.2 million in infrastructure that we’re putting in, but we got 90 per cent funding through our provincial and federal governments, so obviously, they think we can succeed," said Sue Perras, mayor of Smooth Rock Falls.
This launch is the second phase of the town's 20-year plan to rebrand itself, diversify the local economy, and boost the population.
Dave Bernier was born and raised in Smooth Rock Falls. He's the first tenant in the industrial park. He owns a diesel maintenance and repair shop and now he's got a three-bay garage to use.
"We have another shop in town but it’s limited to having neighbours and the Moose Motel right beside. We’re going to set up a dyno facility to test engines inside the shop. So we can have trucks running full blast in the shop," said Bernier, owner of DBI Diesel.
The first part of the plan began in 2017 when the town began selling serviced lots--some as low as $500--to attract new families. Denault said that marketing tactic worked and over the past four years, dozens of new families have moved to Smooth Rock Falls.
"From our records, we can do some level of accuracy- can determine if they’re local people, and so on, and so forth. We’re talking about 60 new families. But there’s a lot more transactions. We’re only referring to the ones that we know are new to the community," he said.
With Smooth Rock Falls on Highway 11 between Cochrane and Kapuskasing, and about an hour's drive north of Timmins, the mayor is hoping to attract more businesses to the area.
"It’s crucial because we don’t have employment right now and most of our people work out of town," Perras said.
Perras said the next phase of the town's plan is to conduct a study on how it can unlock the 140 acres of waterfront properties it owns. Smooth Rock Falls is located next to the Mattagami River.
The mayor of Smooth Rock Falls' last name was misspelled in the original version.