Board Highlight: Justin Frape
AUTOBIOGRAPHY, HISTORY & EDUCATION
I am a Northerner by choice; I was born and raised in the suburbs north of Toronto (namely Newmarket and Aurora, Ontario), moving to downtown Toronto with my family in late high school. I was fortunate to have been in the French Immersion program throughout elementary and secondary school, though I find these days that my only opportunity to use my rusty French skills comes when I visit Northeastern Ontario. I have an Honours degree in Political Science and Business Administration from Wilfrid Laurier University, where I focused primarily on Public Policy. I’m glad that I was able to balance the practical and the theoretical in my postsecondary education. After all, Liberal Arts education gets a rough ride these days.
I met my wife Katherine in university, but it took another five years before I relocated to Thunder Bay. Having spent my entire life in aquatics, my first full-time job out of school was as a Divisional Manager in a commercial swimming pool and recreational facility construction firm in Toronto, after spending several summers in the trenches learning the business first. The owner was a true, old-school entrepreneur; he had no time for the “entitlement complexes” of people in my generation, he’d say. “Get your hands dirty first, the rewards come later.” I complained at the time, but I know now how much of a favour he did me. I learned “street smarts” from him, something that I could have never gleaned from a book. Eighty to a hundred hours of work a week took its toll on me, however, and I moved on but I maintain a great friendship with the owner to this day.
It was in 2004 when I first discovered the line of work in which I am now, and it also offered my first exposure to the North. I took a job with a consulting firm in Sudbury that focused on obtaining research and development funding for private businesses who sought to develop and improve their products or improve their manufacturing processes. I had stumbled on my dream job; it allowed me to use my Public Policy skill set in interpreting government legislation, and I used that skill set to help small businesses throughout Northern Ontario. Katherine had always wanted to return home to Fort William, and in 2006 she helped put me in touch with the right people that eventually led me to basing my work out of Thunder Bay. In the fall of 2006, I departed the firm where I worked and established Telos Business Solutions. It didn’t take long for the spare bedroom in our apartment to overflow with paper; in the following six months we had moved to the Northwestern Ontario Technology Centre (currently the Innovation Centre), and then a 500 sq. ft. facility on Roland Street. In addition to our own client base, we were approved to join the Business Development Bank Consulting Group roster in 2007, a testament to the quality of our work and the successes we’ve had in working with businesses. As the workload, client base and staff grew, we commandeered an additional 1,000 sq. ft. on Roland Street this past November. We like to joke with our office neighbours, the Thunder Bay Women’s Hockey Association, that we’ve got our eyes on their space next!
I had been a member of the Thunder Bay Chamber of Commerce when working for the firm prior to Telos; like many fellow members can surely attest, when I first met Martha Picard, she positioned the Chamber as an offer I couldn’t refuse! When I made the decision to strike out on my own, one of the first things I did was establish a membership for Telos; networking opportunities were of paramount importance to me, as I was very new to Thunder Bay and had very few friends beyond those who are now my in-laws. As I learned more about the Chamber and its activities, I saw an opportunity for me to contribute as a natural extension of my work. I was fortunate to be elected to the Board of Directors in 2007, and was almost immediately teased by my fellow directors for my nerdy love of Public Policy. I’d like to think that I have a means to contribute on a number of fronts; until the recent election of Mike Nitz and John Guarasci, I have been anywhere from 10 to 35 years younger than the rest of the Board (and for the record, Mike and John, I’m still younger than you, if only by a few months.) Secondly, I also think my work offers some insight on the future of business in Thunder Bay and Northwestern Ontario. Unlike many, I am fortunate to witness the “good news stories” in our economy, those who are taking a chance and investing in the development of capacities that will keep them competitive for years to come. There are plenty of such stories! One would think, reading the news, that the only research being conducted in Thunder Bay is by scientists as an extension of the hospital and medical school. While an important facet of our future, I can assure you that there is far more happening on shop floors with people wielding welding torches than people in labs wearing white coats and wielding test tubes. And it’s great news! Diversification in our economy is critical to our future.
LOOKING TO THE FUTURE
I feel there has been a reinvigoration of the Chamber happening lately; the Committee structure has returned and engaged a whole new group of members who seek to make a difference. I have direct involvement in this as well, as Chair of the Government, Municipal and Taxation Committee. As a member of the Policy Committee, my most recent endeavor has been to work on an Ontario Chamber of Commerce resolution to ask the provincial government to enhance the provincial research and development tax credit, in the hope that it might further encourage small businesses to take a chance on new development initiatives.
Like many, I think Thunder Bay will look completely different ten years from now. However, perhaps it’s my exposure to all of the activity that is “underground” to others, I think I have a more positive outlook than many. One of the reasons I chose to live in Thunder Bay is because I feel people in northern Ontario are more resourceful by way of necessity. Opportunities don’t necessarily present themselves naturally to people in Thunder Bay, but there are plenty of amazing examples where people have identified core markets and rallied resources around servicing those markets. Where non-disclosure agreements permit, ask me and I will be pleased to tell you more!
Board Profile - Michael Nitz
Originally from Scarborough, Michael Nitz relocated to Thunder Bay to attend Lakehead University on the basis of high praise the Kinesiology program received from friends who are alumni of the program. After some time in the program, Michael realized his skills were better suited to the corporate world and graduated from the Business Administration program in 2004.
Upon graduation, many of Michael’s colleagues looked elsewhere on the map for career opportunities. Michael understood the importance of retaining Lakehead graduates in the region and chose to stay in Northwestern Ontario. Michael was offered a Regional Branch Manager opportunity with RBC in both Nipigon and Geraldton. An active member of each community he has lived in, Michael has held seats on more than a dozen different boards and committees, including his primary role as President of a regional Chamber of Commerce. For his efforts, the community of Nipigon recognized him with the prestigious Regional Ambassador's award in 2007.
In the Spring of 2008, Michael was faced with many career options after his success, however decided to move back to Thunder Bay due to family, quality of life, and the exciting changes in Thunder Bay. He accepted the Manager position at the Edward Street branch, and has already entrenched himself in the community. One of his first calls from his new desk was to the Thunder Bay Chamber to see how he could contribute. He was happy to join the board in February 2009.
The Thunder Bay Chamber does an outstanding job as the voice of business in Thunder Bay. Members are extremely proud to be involved with the chamber, and actively participate in the numerous events held each year. Partnering is key to the continued growth of the Chamber; with Michael sitting on numerous other boards, he plans to leverage these opportunities; particularly the Young Professional's Network of Thunder Bay and the Lakehead University Alumni Association. He looks forward to showcasing the work of the chamber and attracting new members.