Expo well-timed for resource ‘boom’

Thunder Bay, Ont. — The Central Canada Resource Expo (CEN CAN Expo) is returning to Thunder Bay this September with a change in venue.

Last year, the inaugural natural resource trade show was held at the Canadian Lakehead Exhibition grounds, but due to a conflict of date availability, the event will take place at the Fort William Gardens and curling rink this year.

Although there will be fewer outdoor exhibits, Glenn Dredhart, president of Canadian Trade-Ex, promises more indoor booths all under one roof.

“In order to grow the event, we will need a larger venue,” Dredhart said. “It is unfortunate because we know we could grow the event to 400 exhibitors with more outdoor activities if we had the right location. We are currently looking to see who we could work with to accommodate this scale of event. It’s tough when you have an event with so much potential but not a large enough facility to host it.”

The 2022 event saw more than 4,000 delegates attend from across central Canada, including Winnipeg and Calgary, and from as far away as Australia and Tokyo.

A large gathering kicked off the 2022 event with a gala dinner at the Valhalla Inn, where $10,000 was raised for education and training bursaries.

Conferences held during the event featured speakers representing some of Canada’s newest and largest producing and junior mining companies, which promoted their mining projects, and supply and service needs in Northwestern Ontario and the Ring of Fire.

“The conferences were all sold out with crowds of up to 200 guests in attendance,” Dredhart said.

Among the conference speakers were George Pirie, the minister of Mines. The minister spoke about the Ring of Fire, the economic potential of the region and what it has to offer Northern Ontario and the world when it comes to the supply of critical minerals and the electric vehicle surge.

Both Webequie and Marten Falls First Nations received provincial approval this week for their Northern road link, an all-season road network for access to the mines and the provincial highway network.

The project was in its early stages last year as representatives from the two communities presented it during the Ring of Fire Conference at the expo.

“Careers were also a main focus with a career forum and job fair taking place during the event,” Dredhart said.

“There is a real need for workers in the mining industry and the event helped to expose the industry as a place to work for those looking for a long lasting, high paying career.”

More than 50 industry companies were on hand to accept resumes on the spot from job seekers.

Dredhart also noted that the hundreds of out-of-town VIP guests enjoyed food and spirits courtesy of the DaVinci Centre, Sleeping Giant Brewing Co., and Rheault Distillery.

The trade show portion of the event drew more than 1,200 people to Thunder Bay who took on the role as exhibitors for their companies.

“The timing for this type of event for Thunder Bay couldn’t be better as the mining, energy and forest industries in Ontario are experiencing a boom like no other,” Dredhart said.

He said the 2023 event schedule is in the works and the website is already up. The trade show floor is more than 60 per cent reserved with exhibitors already.

Sandi Krasowski, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Chronicle-Journal