AFNOO: Dedicated to success of Northwestern Ontario Businesses

French-language services at your fingertips in Northwestern Ontario

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Marie-France Vézina of l’Accueil francophone of Thunder Bay searches the AFNOO directory for French-language services.

With an eye on broadening their client base and increasing their corporate profile, entrepreneurs routinely assess marketing and promotional opportunities as they arise. But who can businesses in Northwestern Ontario turn to for help in raising awareness about their products and French language services? One answer is the Association des Francophones du Nord-Ouest de l'Ontario (AFNOO), and what's more, its services are offered free of charge.

AFNOO was established as a non-profit umbrella organization in 1977 and is committed to enhancing the vitality of Francophone organizations and communities in Northwestern Ontario. Today, it boasts 25 member organizations across the region, representing sectors ranging from education and economic development to health and culture/heritage.

Over the years, FedNor supported AFNOO and has invested close to $465,000 in support of 17 projects to help the organization fulfill its mandate – to ensure the development and the prosperity of the Francophone community in Northwestern Ontario at the educational, economic, linguistic, social and cultural levels.

One of the projects supported by FedNor was for AFNOO to development its 2009-2014 strategic plan, which highlighted the need for a French language services directory to increase the visibility of the Francophone community and available French-language services in the region.

Élodie Bedouet, Executive Director of AFNOO, and her team, didn't waste any time following up on the recommendation.  "After consultations with our regional stakeholders, we created a printed version of a French language directory in 2012," explains Bedouet. "Realizing that the Internet has changed the traditional way of doing business, we knew the addition of an online directory would reach a wider audience and assist our organization to easily update the directory. This free marketing tool, developed thanks to a FedNor investment, is open to all businesses or organizations that offer some or all of their services in French. It also allows employers to attract bilingual employees and attract new clientele."

The Thunder Bay Community Economic Development Commission (CEDC) worked with AFNOO to help coordinate the launch of the directory. Stakeholders, including Thunder Bay Ventures, the Chamber of Commerce and PARO Centre for Women's Enterprise, among others, were eager to see this new tool introduced.

Public consultations

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AFNOO consults with regional stakeholders to strengthen the vitality of the Francophone community and to contribute to the economic growth of Northwestern Ontario.

"The directory is a valuable resource. It's an added marketing tool which helps businesses expand their reach," affirms Stacia Kean, Development Officer with the Thunder Bay CEDC. "I show our clients how they can use the directory as part of their marketing strategy. It's an effective way of letting the region know the range of French language services available at their business."

Donald Pelletier, an insurance and investment fund advisor with Desjardins Financial Security uses the directory and for him it became an indispensable tool in helping attract new customers while increasing visibility for his financial consulting business. "The directory has allowed me to expand my services to a Francophone clientele because it enables me to target our marketing to clients seeking French-language services," added Pelletier.

The directory is also proving to be indispensable to French-speaking tourists and newcomers to Northwestern Ontario, helping them to find a wide range of French-language resources and services in the region. "Offering services in French is a considerable asset for any business," says Gregory Heroux of Sail Superior in Thunder Bay.  "Many Francophone customers prefer to frequent businesses that offer services in French. Listing my business in AFNOO's directory allows me to attract new business from our region and from anywhere in the world."

The directory is used by many to find resources, leisure activities, businesses and organizations that offer their services in French. In fact, statistical analysis of AFNOO's website shows the directory is the most visited page for the organization, proving the importance of the directory.

This user-friendly directory helps everyone find the Francophone services they are looking for. If a business or organization offers some, or all of its services in French, AFNOO is inviting it to visit its website and add its name to the directory, raising its profile and enhancing its access to a growing and dynamic francophone community, in Northwestern Ontario and beyond.

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