Thunder Bay

Thunder Bay could take 3 years to recover from pandemic: CEDC

Small business impacted by emergency closures during the COVID-19 pandemic may have to hold on a little longer, before Thunder Bay starts to see an economic recovery.

Service industry will play key role in recovery

Eric Zakrewski, CEO of the Thunder Bay Community Development Commission, says it could take three years for the city to recover economically from the COVID-19 pandemic. (Supplied/Thunder Bay Community Economic Development Commission)

Small business impacted by emergency closures during the COVID-19 pandemic may have to hold on a little longer,before Thunder Bay starts to see an economic recovery.

"Slow, but slow and steady," is how Eric Zakrewski, the CEO of the Thunder Bay Community Economic Development Commission, characterized the path forward, post-pandemic.

Zakrewski and Thunder Bay mayor Bill Mauro hosted an online town hall on Tuesday night to highlight some of the ways the city will support businesses post-pandemic.

"Recovery for Thunder Bay, we believe, is going to take approximately three years to recover to pre-padnemic levels.," said Zakrewski.

"We feel that 2019 was a particularly strong year for Thunder Bay, with all of the great things going on in terms of attractions and sport tourism events."

Going forward, events like the Scotties Tournament of Hearts in February 2021 will provide an economic boost to the city, he said, and although the event seems like a long way away, it will be crucial to helping the tourism industry.

Some examples were more immediate, such as Mauro pointing out a resolution he plans to present at the next city council meeting. It would see what could be done to allow more outdoor patios in Thunder Bay.

"People will be more comfortable being outside, and so, what can we do administratively, it doesn't cost us money, that is the good part about it, can we support the food and beverage scene, small entrepreneurs in Thunder Bay, by making it easier for them to have an outside patio," Mauro said.

Local restaurants play a major role in the recovery, they said, as they employ a high number of people, but also help attract visitors to the city from the region.

Zakrewski said the city needs to focus its recovery on getting residents to go out in their own city, and then, when travel advisories change, into the region, and then inter-provincial travel. He said that order was important to support local and regional economies first.

He said the tourism sector outside the city, partially comprised of fishing and hunting operations could be in dire straits, but he did have some hope for the industry.

Zakrewski said many guests had not outright cancelled trips, but instead were postponing dates, still showing interest in travelling to the region.

Locally, Mauro said while the service sector, which is a large portion of the city's economy will take a while to recover, he was optimistic that manufacturing facilities in the area are still running, and that mines are also planning to restart operations.

"The last month for our port was one of the strongest months," Mauro said, noting a high demand for grain.

"So we have strength there, we have an airport, we have a public sector that's strong."


Jeff Walters


Born and raised in Thunder Bay, Jeff is proud to work in his hometown, as well as throughout northwestern Ontario. Away from work, you can find him skiing (on water or snow), curling, out at the lake or flying.