The Millworks

Brand Identity / Application | Sault Ste. Marie Economic Development Corporation

Established in 1895, St. Marys Paper operated in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario for more than 100 years. However, in 2011, the company closed its doors permanently – a byproduct of a slumping Canadian forestry sector. The property was later purchased by an investor, who set out to completely redevelop the industrial site into a community gathering place. Around this same time, the Sault Ste. Marie Economic Development Corporation was beginning the process of establishing a small business incubator, a place that could also house its enterprise services programs and staff. The former St. Marys Paper site was a perfect fit to host the incubator. With the site selected, the facility needed a fitting brand and name that captured the essence and meaning of the incubator while also paying homage to the history of the industrial property. The Millworks was chosen to do just that.

Purpose of the Project
Opened in May 2016 in a section of the former St. Marys Paper machine shop, the purpose of the Millworks is to support business owners through their early-stage development and, ultimately, to bolster the small business sector and create jobs. For the Millworks brand and marketing campaign, the goal is to attract business clients to use the business incubator, thus helping to ensure the long-term viability of the project. Another goal is to keep funding agencies at all levels of government, along with community partners and the general public, aware of the success of Millworks, which will also help ensure the project’s viability. As a whole, a goal/purpose of the Millworks was also to be a key component of the city’s downtown Canal District revitalization initiative.

Effectiveness / Meeting Objectives
The Millworks brand has been widely successful at achieving its goals. For the past year, this project has been front and centre in media and public discussions. Thanks to the brand and marketing, a number of companies have moved into the Millworks facility, with some firms graduating or progressing to other locations in the community. In fact, soon after opening its doors, the incubator was essentially at full capacity. Clients include: BonZa Global Inc., NorthStar Consulting Ltd., Jeronamo Solutions, Possibilities Group, MBR Services Inc., Beaver & Eagle Automotive Technologies, Dizzytree, Swamp Woods Unlimited, and UMG Media Corp. With the success of the project, the Millworks recently celebrated its two-year anniversary, with dozens of clients, funding partners and citizens attending the event. It’s also worth noting that the former St. Marys Paper site is now home to a number of components – from a banquet/concert hall, farmers market and post-secondary education facilitates. The site has been redeveloped, and the Millworks is a key tenant and key component of this overall downtown Canal District revitalization initiative.

Challenges and Changes Made
An early challenge of this project was to establish a brand name for the small business incubator that captured the essence of the facility while also recognizing the rich industrial history of the former St. Marys Paper mill. A number of names were considered. However, the Millworks was ultimately selected. The brand speaks to the site’s former use as a mill, conveys the message that the property has been and continues to be redeveloped, and it also brands the facility for what is it: a place where companies work together, grow, and create opportunities for workers and business. Another early challenge was convincing funding partners and the public of the merits of this project. Using the Millworks brand, as opposed to the tagline “Small Business Incubator,” and developing a successful marketing strategy around the brand, helped achieve this goal.

Target Audience
To operate a successful small business incubator, you first need a solid crop of entrepreneurs to use the facility. As such, owners of small/micro firms and new start-ups, along with prospective entrepreneurs, were/are the primary audience of the Millworks brand and marketing plan. Another target market is the agencies at all levels of government that are currently funding the project. The general public in the Sault Ste. Marie area is another key market. It’s important that they are aware of the incubator and its positive impact on the local economy. The Millworks brand and accompanying marketing campaign has been successful at reaching these target markets with key messages, as evidenced in the attached media articles.

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