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Town looks at economic development strategy

The Town of Ponoka has been without an economic development strategy for some time but planners have put an end to that.

The Town of Ponoka has been without an economic development strategy for some time but planners have put an end to that.

Town council approved a new economic development strategy for 2015 to 2017, drafted by economic development officer Stephen Novak, during its regular meeting Tuesday, Dec. 16.

Novak told councillors that it is difficult to make any sort of plan without a strategy in place, but once it’s been approved, he will be able to put plans in motion that will help set the stage for the future of the town.

“What I’d like to do is have council pass this, so we get moving forward with the economic development strategy in 2015,” said Novak.

Implementation of the plan will begin in January 2015, he added. The strategy looks at five priorities:

1 - Tourism development

2 - Advertising and media

3 - Airport development

4 - Business development, retention and expansion

5 - Population growth

In each priority, there are brief guidelines for Novak that he says may change over time. Part of the planning includes hosting business cafes and bringing different town departments together to consult on improvements.

For option 2, administration will look at the town’s website, to determine areas that need to be fixed. It will also look at advertising strategies. The cost estimate for both is $25,000.

Option 3 seeks more use of the Ponoka Industrial Airport. An airport business plan is already being planned for and Novak wants to use that to plan for its future.

A business development, retention and expansion survey is in the works for option 4 and will be used in conjunction with the business cafes. Estimated cost to host a café is about $1,000 and the surveys are estimated to cost $10,000 to $20,000.

Part of option 4 includes downtown revitalization; a committee has been organized specifically for the purpose of decreasing vacancy rates and increasing consumer traffic.

“A revitalized downtown is a measure of pride for the entire community,” states the plan.

Option 1 tackles tourism from the standpoint that Ponoka is home to the Ponoka Stampede and has the Calnash Ag Event Centre as a main stage for equine events. Also the golf courses, arena and other centres are ideal for hosting events.

“These venues can be utilized to host local, regional, provincial, national and international events if the opportunities are fully investigated,” states the document.

Coun. Carla Prediger asked Novak to bring updates of the plan on a quarterly basis to see how it is moving forward.