Awards and Honours
2017 – Economic Developers Council of Ontario’s 2016 Award of Excellence: Regional & Cross-Border Collaboration (Tourism Atikokan)
2017 – Economic Developers Council of Ontario’s 2016 Award of Excellence: Technology and New Media (Tourism Atikokan’s VisitAtikokan.ca)
The 2016 EDCO awards recognized excellence in the use of technology and new media for the AEDC’s development of the VisitAtikokan.ca tourism website, and outstanding regional and cross-border collaboration for the whole Tourism Atikokan program. (The AEDC also won the latter award in 2014, for its leadership in the creation of the Heart of the Continent Partnership.)
“There were over 400 people at the dinner, and when they saw what we had done [with Tourism Atikokan], they were very impressed,” said Knowles last week. “These are people with tourist organizations that have staffs of thirty. But you have to do it this way in the North – it’s all about collaboration.”
Recognizing that tourism was something of an orphan in the economic development picture here, Knowles and fellow staffer Katie Hannon put together a proposal for Tourism Atikokan in 2015. It called for the development of a new community branding (which was later developed by a Thunder Bay firm, Atikokan… Naturally Wild), and a strong on-line presence that would attract visitors to Atikokan. They then went to the regional tourism organization (Tourism Northern Ontario), the Town, and the AEDC and secured $40,000 in funding.
Since the first website launched in late 2015, VisitAtikokan.ca has reached almost a million people, generated over 300,000 shares, likes, and comments, and drawn over 70,000 video views.
“This is people from all over the world – everywhere but Antarctica,” said Knowles. The awards were presented at EDCO’s 60th annual conference in Toronto February 9.
“Participating in EDCO’s Awards Program holds communities to a higher standard throughout the year,” said Christina Kakaflikas, EDCO 2017 president. “Allowing communities to learn about winning projects and the ability to compare efforts maintains the need for excellence across the province and throughout all economic development initiatives. Helping communities raise their profile, and investment and tourism opportunities is a big part of what EDCO does.”
2016 – International Economic Developers Council’s Excellence in Economic Development Awards: Gold Award – Special Purpose Website (www.TravelTheHeart.org)
From The Atikokan Progress: By just about any standard, Atikokan is a small, remote town.
But if you have anything to do with economic development, you probably think otherwise these days. The Atikokan Economic Development Corp. has won more accolades for its accomplishments, this time from the International Economic Development Council (IEDC).
On September 26, the IEDC presented one of its Excellence in Economic Development gold awards to the AEDC for its leadership in the development of the Heart of Continent geo-tourism website.
AEDC Community Development Advisor Gord Knowles, who was honoured as the Young Professional of the Year by the IEDC, was also directly involved in the Heart of the Continent project, the development of its geo-tourism website, and the partnership with National Geographic that gave it immediate credibility with travellers.
“Not only did [the AEDC] work to provide a necessary service to their community, but also, their participation in the awards program sheds light on their stellar projects which other communities can now use a benchmark,” said Matherly, in announcing the Gold Award.
IEDC’s Excellence in Economic Development Awards recognize the world’s best economic development programs and partnerships, marketing materials, and the year’s most influential leaders. These awards honour organizations and individuals for their efforts in creating positive change in urban, suburban, and rural communities.
“The awards process is a thorough, non-biased and multi-layered,” said Matherly. “These are extraordinary accomplishments for all winners, and an overall great effort by all participants. We look forward to next year’s awards competition.”
The Heart of the Continent’s geo-tourism project is a collaborative effort done to stimulate and promote tourism and the ‘outdoor experience’ in northern Ontario and northern Minnesota, using the strength of National Geographic’s brand.
The project is part of the objective of the Heart of the Continent Partnership (HOCP), which formed to bring together members and other local stakeholders to collaborate on non-partisan, bi-national projects. From a regional cooperation of land managers in Canada and the USA, the HOCP has grown into a group fostering tourism, scientific and volunteer projects meant to improve the well-being of both nations.
Atikokan Economic Development Corp. has been a driving force of the HOCP for a number of years and is the central office to its headquarters; their extensive experience with the tourism industry and economic development helps to further the organization and its projects.
The website project brought together stakeholders on both sides of the border who raised in excess of $250,000 to plan and execute the website, mobile application and map. The basis of the project was universal to develop a common identity for the region beyond provincial or national borders, defining the area instead by its geography, its history and its people.
2016 – Economic Developers Association of Canada’s Marketing Canada Awards: Advertising Campaign (Tourism Atikokan)
2015 – Ontario Association of Community Futures Development Corporations’ Award of Excellence (Innovation): The Heart of the Continent Geo-Tourism Project
Press Release: The Heart of the Continent’s National Geographic geo-tourism project has received the prestigious Innovation Award out of many nominations from across the province at the 22nd Annual Conference of the Ontario Association of Community Futures Development Corporations. Over 250 guests and delegates from Community Futures Development Corporations (CFDCs) recently met at Casino Rama, Orillia for the event.
This collaborative effort was brought forth to stimulate and promote tourism and the ‘outdoor experience’ in northern Ontario and northern Minnesota, using the strength and respectability of the National Geographic brand. The basis of the project was universal to develop a common identity for the region beyond provincial or national borders, defining the area instead by its geography, its history and its people.
This innovative initiative was nominated for the award by the Atikokan Economic Development Corporation. Efforts on the Canadian side of the project have been championed by the Atikokan EDC, Tourism Thunder Bay, Rainy River Futures CFDC, the Ministry of Natural Resources, and representatives from the First Nations. Funding and collaboration from the province, federal government and local municipalities on both sides of the border has been key to its success.
“We’re just starting to see the benefits to the community right now. The biggest thing is we have an online presence. When you search for Atikokan tourism, we have results now “said Gord Knowles, Community Development Advisor of the Atikokan EDC. “As they pull up on the highway, they’ll see Atikokan is three kilometers away, they’ll hit “what’s near me?” and they’ll see everything happening. It encourages them to turn off the road. And if even one of them turns off the road, I think we’ve done a good thing.”
Initial negotiations for a potential project began as early as October 2010 at an International Community Congress in Thunder Bay & Grand Portage. The design team was formed in the summer of 2012 and began the process of delegating tasks and moving the project forward. A midpoint stakeholder conference which expanded the input and began to solicit site nominations occurred in 2013, with a second smaller offering in 2014 to vet and approve every nomination and establish firm guidelines moving forward. The site www.traveltheheart.org was released publicly in early 2015, four months ahead of schedule.
2015 – Economic Developers Council of Ontario’s (EDCO) 2016 Award of Excellence: Regional & Cross-Border Collaboration (Heart of the Continent)
Press Release: The Economic Developers Council of Ontario (EDCO) recognized excellence in economic development initiatives from Ontario communities February 12. Hosted at the Hamilton Convention Centre, the 58th annual Awards Gala was the final event of an outstanding three-day conference. The Gala, in conjunction with the prestigious Presidents’ dinner, gathered over 300 industry leaders who came together to celebrate and recognize the contribution of their peers.
One hundred and twenty-nine award submissions were made for projects commencing in 2014 by communities from across the province. Among them, Atikokan Economic Development Corporation (AEDC) was recognized for its efforts in the Heart of the Continent and its Geo-tourism site campaign.
“It is a real privilege to honour such deserving communities like Atikokan,” stated Paul Finley, EDCO 2014 President. “Celebrating their achievements, and sharing their success helps promote a higher standard of excellence across the province, resulting in a greater Ontario.“
“We’ve been fortunate to have such strong leadership on both sides of the border, which has made this project very easy to get behind,” said the AEDC’s Gord Knowles. “Both the Heart of the Continent Partnership and its Geo-Tourism project (done in collaboration with National Geographic) embody the types of tourism projects that are viable, sustainable and celebrate the spirit of tourism in our region that we want to foster and grow.”
2010 – Ontario Association of Community Futures Development Corporations’ Award of Excellence: Atikokan Bass Classic
In 2010 the AEDC was awarded the CFDC’s Award of Excellence for their ongoing work assisting to promote and develop the Atikokan Bass Classic, an annual fishing tournament that creates over $1 million in annual revenue for the community and is driven by volunteer efforts and community spirit.
Barry Matherly, chair of the International Economic Development Council (IEDC) and Greg Hitchin, chair of the IEDC awards advisory committee present the excellence in economic development gold award to the AEDC, represented here by executive director Garry McKinnon and community development advisor Gord Knowles, for its leadership in the development of the Heart of the Continent geo-tourism project.