To the folks at Amazon looking for new headquarters, Amazon HQ2: Ponoka is the perfect location, you just don’t know it yet.
Ponoka’s rolling hills and proximity to major cities in Alberta not only make it the best place for Amazon HQ2, it also has annexed land sitting right along the highway ripe for development. Sure, the small population of 6,700 doesn’t meet the requirement of one million people as sent out in the company’s request for proposals, but the surrounding communities are more than a match to support the massive influx of employees expected to work for the company.
As the company’s request for proposal states, this second headquarters will house as many as 50,000 new full-time employees and has a project cost estimated at $5 billion USD in capital expenditures. In Canadian dollars that buys a lot of Tim Hortons donuts.
The central location of Ponoka, nestled neatly between Calgary and Edmonton (Red Deer is also close by) brings with it several communities throughout the region that are more than capable of handling the services, housing, public transportation and recreation needs of the company and its workers.
As a whole, central Alberta brings with it some ideal settings that a city may not be able to accommodate, with Ponoka as the hub for Amazon HQ2.
What’s great about these smaller communities is they’re literally 30 minutes away from each other. Commuting in the city can take that and more. And with Highway 2 right next to Amazon HQ2, a quick getaway to the airport is nice and easy. These families could bring their kids to a small town life with great education while not sacrificing their kids’ arts and cultural experience.
Annexed land that the town owns is right along the Highway 2 corridor making access to fast highways nice and easy. It just so happens that the Edmonton International Airport (EIA) is right inside the 45 minute mark, which is a requirement for the company.
This area is full of farmland, trails, rivers and lush landscape — and a really big rodeo (see Ponoka Stampede for more details) — and Ponoka is close to the four First Nations in Maskwacis; a community that was a co-host for the 2017 World Indigenous Games.
With First Nations communities close to Ponoka, Amazon will also be able to get some cultural exposure, not only for the company, but for its employees. That’s an amazing opportunity if I’ve every seen one.
This idea is about giving Amazon employees a chance to live an (almost) small town life with the benefits of working the dream job. What the company’s planners may not take into account is that operations costs can be less in the smaller communities, even with shipping, which can bring other benefits to employees.
Because of the network of communities, municipal planners could work together to develop a transit system that meets the needs of the company. Heck, there’s already a developed bus system for a few of the towns close to Ponoka. It’s not hard to develop that kind of infrastructure. All you need is the will and a vision. We’ve got both.
And if you need a fast flight that the EIA may not have available, get this, the Ponoka Industrial Airport is a CANPASS approved facility. That means aircraft can clear customs into the United States without having to go through Edmonton and Calgary. I can count on one hand how many Alberta municipalities have that coveted approval.
Luckily the Ponoka airport is already in the midst of growth, readying itself for a new runway expansion and hangar development.
On top of that, Ponoka’s downtown is ideal for the discerning shopper. We have a great variety of boutique shops that have popped up and a variety of services for residents. Plus there’s a brand new learning centre, bringing post-secondary education courses to town. I’m sure educators will be able to bring courses that match the needs of Amazon.
With Ponoka comes the wealth of small communities providing their own unique shopping experience and home town feel.
Ponoka’s river valley is ideal for any walker or runner and comes with great scenes year-round and fitness buffs of all levels enjoy the trail system.
As for professionals, the Field of Dreams adage ‘If you build it, they will come’ rings true in this case. Amazon HQ2 will bring the best professionals from around the world regardless of its location, except this time you’ll be able to make Ponoka your home. It will also open the company up to some gems of professionals who prefer to live in small towns yet have the skills you’re looking for.
Take some time to consider that maybe, Amazon HQ2 would sit perfectly in the Town of Ponoka.