City reviving community development corporation nearly four years after Thompson Unlimited's demise

All but one of the councillors participating by telephone in the April 14 Thompson council meeting voted in favour of reviving the Thompson community development corporation, which has lain dormant since mid-2016, when Thompson Unlimited’s general manager and board resigned.

Coun. Duncan Wong was the only participating councillor (Coun. Judy Kolada was absent) to vote against the revival, saying he was concerned about how the agency would be funded.

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“What we know is we don’t even secure the funding yet,” he said.

City manager Anthony McInnis said the resolution that passed is only the first step in raising the corporation from the legally dead, giving council and city administration to ability to incorporate with the provincial companies office.

Not all those who voted in favour of the resurrection the day after Easter did so without reservations.

Coun. Jeff Fountain said the previous incarnations of the development corporation had not impressed him with their track record.

“In my opinion, they’ve not produced much in the way of successful results,” he said, though he hopes this time it will be different, provided council and administration provide sufficient oversight.

Fountain was supposed to be one of three councillors, along with Coun. Earl Colbourne and Coun. Brian Lundmark, to be appointed to the corporation's interim board for a period of up to a year, alongside Mayor Colleen Smook and McInnis, but offered to let someone else take his place after Coun. Kathy Valentino pointed out that he had replied to an email extending the offer to him a day later than requested.

“I think you should make a change because the procedure wasn’t followed,” Colbourne said. 

After some discussion, Fountain was replaced by deputy mayor Les Ellsworth, who had earlier offered to fill one of the spots if no other volunteers came forward.

That so-called friendly amendment to the resolution didn’t bode well for Wong, who remarked sarcastically that he could see how much success the corporation would have based on the difficulty of simply appointing an interim board.

Wong was the only councillor opposed to the resolution appointing the interim board.

Thompson Unlimited, as the community development corporation was known for the last decade-plus of its existence, was effectively dissolved in June 2016 when the general manager resigned, followed by the board, which had been appointed about a year earlier.

Thompson Unlimited received $2.5 million through the city from Inco and then Vale over 10 years from 2002 until the end of 2012. Vale's contribution to economic development remained at $250,000 in 2013, but dropped to $100,000 for 2014 and 2015 and to $50,000 for 2016.

Former Thompson councillor and former Thompson Citizen editor Blake Ellis said in an April 13 Facebook post that it isn’t a good idea to recreate a model that wasn’t working over the last few years of Thompson Unlimited’s existence unless the new corporation is given sufficient resources.

If city council wants to recreate Thompson Unlimited, it will have to give the organization far more money than it likely wants in order to see the fruitful results it desires,” he wrote.

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