By Dale Cory
Ponoka is officially open for business. At least, it is for visitors, which in turn, could lead to increased business.
The Ponoka Visitor Information Centre held a ribbon-cutting ceremony Sept. 24 and officially opened its doors to the public immediately following a 15-minute ceremony in front of 30 people.
“This is a great feeling. We’ve had this in the budget for the last couple of budgets. It’s finally the day of completion,” said Mayor Larry Henkelman after cutting the ribbon. “It’s great to have worked with the Stampede Association and the Chamber of Commerce, along with everyone else in the community who had input into this facility. It’s good to see it up and in operation.”
The information centre and chamber office, located at 4900 Highway 2A, across from the Ponoka Youth Centre, was a $340,000 project, with $100,000 coming from a provincial CFEP grant, $88,000 from a provincial MSI grant, and $152,000 from Town of Ponoka reserves. This permanent location replaces the temporary visitor centre that was set up during the summer months on the Stampede Grounds.
“To have a building in this location is fantastic for the Visitor Information Centre and for the Ponoka Chamber of Commerce,” said chamber president Darren Galan. “We’re more visible now. Having our visitor information centre in the same building makes it easier for Lana to look after that responsibility.”
Galan is referring to Lana Johnson, executive manager of the Ponoka and District Chamber of Commerce. She says visits increased dramatically once the new building was erected.
“First and foremost, visitors have commented on the flowers, and what a nice job the ladies from the town have done. I’ve had people from all over taking pictures outside to take back to their communities to give them ideas on what a good information centre looks like,” said Johnson. “They’re also impressed with the content of information. We’ve have visitors who are travelling to and from all parts of Canada and other parts of the world.”
Just how much of an impact has the new information centre had on the number of visits?
In 2009, 71 people visited the information centre on the Stampede Grounds in July, and 45 in August.
In 2010, at the centre’s new location, there were 122 visits in July and 154 in August.
“I think this gives us more potential than what we had before. People definitely wanted more information on Ponoka. From the chamber of commerce perspective, we now have the opportunity to promote businesses from Ponoka more from this location,” added Johnson. “We’ve got a good supply of information from the western provinces I would like to invite chamber members to bring me information, links to their website, that type of thing, that I can share with visitors when they come into town.”
For more information, check out the visitor information centre in person, or log on to: firstname.lastname@example.org