Don Mitchell has served on numerous boards and committees in Sault Ste. Marie, including leadership positions with the Chamber of Commerce and the Economic Development Corporation. Despite a busy career as an insurance broker, he always found time to volunteer and give back to the community.
Having served as chair of the City’s transportation infrastructure committee, Don is a strong believer in Sault Ste. Marie’s potential as a strategically located Great Lakes port capable of connecting Northern Ontario mining, forestry and manufacturing enterprises with U.S and global markets. Although marine transportation is much more economical and environmentally friendly than trucking, he tells us, this is one economic development project that has yet to be realized - largely due to complications relating to the port facility’s location on privately owned Algoma Steel property. Nevertheless, with the latter’s transition to electric arc steelmaking, which requires large supplies of scrap steel, and the expansion of Tenaris Algoma Tubes to include welded tube manufacturing, Don is hopeful that the time is right to modernize and expand this important facility.
Having served as a member of the board of directors and as president of the Sault Ste. Marie Economic Development Corporation, Don is a strong believer in EDCs as entities independent of municipal control, insisting that the functioning of an EDC as a municipal department renders it risk averse because mayors and councillors are always fearful of being blamed if a development project goes sour.
During Don’s tenure as president of the EDC, the corporation stepped up to acquire ownership of Searchmount Ski Hill when a previous owner threw in the towel and no other buyers came forward. The EDC held ownership for three years until it was able to find an experienced ski hill operator to take it over. The EDC took a lot of heat from City Council, but an important recreational facility was saved and the EDC got all its money back.
A ski hill, just like all other cultural and recreational amenities, he tells us in this interview, not only creates employment and brings tourists to the city, but it helps to make Sault Ste. Marie more attractive to newcomers, including doctors and other professionals.