With much of the central Alberta running at the same level as much of the province, Ponoka isn’t faring too badly when it comes to economic development.
Stephen Novak, Ponoka’s economic development officer, was one of the local speakers at a forum on the Alberta economy hosted by Servus Credit Union at the Calnash Ag Event Centre and provided an update on the progress of some ideas and developments in the community.
Novak explained that the overall slowdown in central Alberta has limited both commercial and residential development in town, though while the number of permits issued so far are down, the amount of those permits has remained similar to this time last year.
He also mentioned that the downtown revitalization (DRC) and airport committees are making some progress.
“The (DRC) have just started to look at the report made in 2007 to see where we can go. We do need new business, but we can’t forget about our existing ones,” he said.
“Meanwhile, authority for the airport has now been transferred to the town and there are plans to extend the runway and taxiways to turn it into more of an industrial airport.”
He added there is some development progress being made at the airport and there may be future opportunities to pick up some smaller businesses as both Edmonton and Red Deer move more into passenger and bigger freight service, so long as Ponoka’s airport has what they need.
In addition, talks continue on the proposed renovation of the recreation centre and a new town hall with cash possibly being freed up next year after the new bridge is completed as well as work on developing Highway 53 corridor west of town.
“Presently, we have a substantial corridor available on northside of Highway 53 between Highways 2A and 2, but there are no services out there. There is some hesitancy, but finding a way to extend services makes sense,” Novak said.
He also mentioned there is a prospect of bringing some big box stores to that corridor in order to bring people in for larger purchases and keep them for smaller purchases at the local stores.
Local business succeeding
Building relationships and innovation are the keys to making business work in tough times.
Those were the words of wisdom from Bruce Clark, owner of Ponoka-based Strand Media, made to area business leaders at the forum.
“The world is changing and you are struggling as well as your suppliers and vendors, talk to them as they are valued resources,” Clark said.
“Just like your bank or credit union, they realize you are the most valuable if you are a client and can keep going.”
He provided an example that has helped his business adjust to the changing times and it involved talking to some of the leading edge companies, even competitors, in his industry.
“If you can establish and build on those type of relationships, there are benefits you can get through feedback,” he stated.
“One example is Xerox, who ask if we had ever considered scanning as part of an electronic document management system. They have what is considered the strongest software in the world and as they move toward a paperless environment, companies have legacy documents that need to be kept and told us we have the equipment to do, so we began to look at it as a way to offset the revenue decline from our other streams.”
Clark added it’s often those kinds of ideas – from businesses you deal with or competitors in the same line of work – that you get from just talking to them and can be a compliment to what your business is currently doing.
“You always have to figure out how to keep things going. You can either keep the status quo, wait or lead,” he explained.
“We chose to lead since it has the same risk and is more exciting, but you need to spend time on your business in order to see those opportunities since you never know what may come across your plate.”