The first of many business cafés planned for the near future appears to have been a positive start in opening the lines of communication, not just among businesses, but with the Town of Ponoka.
The event was hosted April 16 at the Western Budget Motel, which brought businesses in the Southwest Industrial Park together in an informal breakfast and brainstorming session. Economic Development Board (EDB) member Danny Lineham said the City of Airdrie has been hosting these breakfast for many years, which inspired Ponoka’s EDB to host their own.
“We’re trying to get ideas,” said Lineham.
Interest appears to be there, too. Approximately 30 people attended the breakfast, including town councillors and members of the EDB. Business owners and managers sat in different groups to brainstorm ideas on what they would like to see in Ponoka.
Groups were posed questions such as: What would you like to see improved? What do you think is working?
One of the purposes behind the gathering is to gain feedback and open communication between stakeholders, added Lineham. He was impressed by the positive feedback.
“Overwhelmingly they’re talking about what a great place Ponoka is to do business,” he said.
While feedback was generally positive, the board also wanted to know what can be improved. As the café progressed groups were asked to present their discussions and here are some of the results:
- Ponoka is in a good location between two large cities and in proximity to Highway 2
- There is no business tax and a low tax base
- Most businesses are owned or managed by community members
- The direction of the new town council is applauded and communication is improving
- Councillors are willing to listen to concerns and feedback
- The Calnash Ag Event Centre is a boon to the Town of Ponoka
- There is no industrial land ready for developers
- No year-round breakfast restaurant
- Many different groups have different goals and are not communicating with each other
- Infrastructure needs improving, especially in the southwest Industrial area. This may be affecting Ponoka’s image
- Need to find ways to attract retail to town
- Businesses and the town need to be proactive, not reactive
Darcy Schmidt of Darcy’s Drilling feels a positive attitude is needed for incentives such as the café to bring change. He says businesses should still be able to speak their mind and should work closely with town planners.
“I’m sure it’s going to move in the right direction,” said Schmidt.
Attendees were asked to prioritize three items that were important to them to give the EDB a way to provide feedback to councillors.