The economy of Sault Ste. Marie is built by efforts across the sectors. The Sault Ste. Marie Economic Development Corporation spearheads initiatives which diversify and strengthen the economy of the City. Many new initiatives also receive funding through bodies such as FedNor and the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation (NOHFC). Click on any of the following points for a brief overview of the economic role played by:
- The Arts
Industry is a key sector in the local economy. The history of industry in Sault Ste. Marie dates back to the days of American businessman F.H. Clergue, who first established hydroelectricity, steel production, pulp and paper production, and rail lines in the City. The Algoma Steel Corporation was created by amalgamating 5 mills. At that time the company belonged to a Philadelphia-based group and produced mainly steel for the railroad. Later on, the Sault Ste. Marie steel plant would be the first in North America to adopt a worker-owned business model. It has since joined the global Essar group. Today Essar Steel Algoma makes rolls of metal sheets, beams, line pipes, and other specialized products, and has a production capacity of 4 million tonnes per year. Until recently, a paper mill also operated in the Sault. These historic buildings have since been repurposed as Mill Square.
Many people in Sault Ste. Marie are employed by the provincial and federal governments, including the Ministry of Natural Resources (provincial), the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (provincial), and the Canadian Forestry Service (federal). At the municipal levels there are the city police, the fire department, and other services.
Sault Ste. Marie offers an environment where entrepreneurship is encouraged. The Sault Ste. Marie Innovation Centre’s incubator provides support for entrepreneurs in the science and technology sector. Social enterprises are a growing aspect of business culture in the Sault, and are supported through local initiatives such as Social Entrepreneurship Evolution (SEE) and the Youth Social Infrastructure Collaborative. Batchewana Band Industries (BBI) provides infrastructure for Indigenous and other businesses through Blue Heron Industrial Park.
Over the years, Sault Ste. Marie has welcomed several waves of immigration. The mid-20th century saw an influx of Italian immigrants, many of whom went on to work for the burgeoning steel industry. The City’s Italian heritage can easily be seen in the names of local roads, businesses, service clubs, and restaurants. The City also has significant French, English, and Finnish communities. The area around the southern end of Carmen’s Way is still remembered by some residents as Little Italy, the French quarter, and the Finnish quarter. Their 1960s historical boundaries are outlined on the web portal map for that section of the Trail.
In the past Europeans made up the largest portion of immigrants to the Sault, but recent immigration has occurred from dozens of countries around the world, including Argentina, China, India, and Mexico. Many relocate for work, and the community’s two post-secondary institutions also attract a significant number of international students. The diversity of newcomers to the Sault can be seen at the Civic Centre, where flags are displayed to acknowledge the many home countries of people who have moved here. Immigration contributes greatly to the diversity and cultural landscape of Sault Ste. Marie. The Flags of Sault residents map highlights many peoples’ home countries.
The City’s Local Immigration Partnership (LIP) website Discover the Sault provides people with information pertinent to relocating. The Sault Community Career Centre focuses on settlement, and its program “New To The Sault” introduces newcomers to the area and assists with building networks through events.
Artists make a living in the Sault through a wide variety of media, including film, theatre, painting, sculpture, and more. The Arts Council’s annual event, Art in the Park, encourages residents to enjoy local art while wandering the beautiful setting of the Roberta Bondar Park in the downtown area. Art in the Parking Lot highlights the work of emerging artists. Event postings can be found on the Arts Council’s website as well as individual and organizational sites, including the Chamber of Commerce.
Sault Ste. Marie is well connected to other destinations through rail lines, waterways, the Trans-Canada Highway, and an international airport. Freight is moved through the Sault by transports heading both across Canada and into the United States, or by train. A passenger rail service also transports people between Sault Ste. Marie and Hearst. The St. Marys River is the only waterway between Lake Superior and the rest of the Great Lakes system, and in turn provides access from the Sault to the St. Lawrence Seaway. Traversed by sailboats, yachts, speedboats, fishing boats, and lake freighters, the River is valued by recreational and commercial vessels alike. Essar Steel Algoma in partnership with the City of Sault Ste. Marie is currently pursuing plans to expand the commercial harbour in the Sault into the “Port of Algoma.”
Sault Ste. Marie proclaims itself as the alternative energy capital of North America. The most longstanding form of alternative energy in Sault Ste. Marie is hydroelectricity, which is generated by the St. Marys River near the locks and Whitefish Island. The Sault area is also home to significant solar and wind power developments. Programs at Sault College offer training for students looking to pursue careers in alternative energy.
Local agriculture is supported through farmers’ markets, local businesses, and events such as Eat Algoma. Local initiatives such as the Rural Agri-Innovation Network (RAIN) offer innovative solutions to farmers in the area. Read more about agriculture:
Technology is a growing sector in the Sault, with many local businesses employing science and technology experts from a variety of backgrounds. The Sault Ste. Marie Innovation Centre is a hub for projects in the areas of alternative energy, bio-products, water, agriculture, invasive species, video gaming, community geomatics, health informatics, and technology business development. Other notable employers including environmental research facilities, Essar Steel Algoma, the Ontario Lottery and Gaming (OLG), Algoma Games for Health, and web development enterprises. Training is provided through both Algoma University and Sault College.