Town works to promote Ponoka

Empty stores, a slow growing population and limited shopping. These are some of the issues Sarah Olson, economic development officer

Economic development officer Sarah Olson shows off the Keep it Real bags the town has purchased for potential welcome bags or other uses.

Empty stores, a slow growing population and limited shopping. These are some of the issues Sarah Olson, economic development officer (EDO) for the Town of Ponoka, deals with.

She discusses her role and how the town works with businesses to help drive development in Ponoka. “The goal of economic development is new business development as well as business retention and expansion of current businesses.”

Much of that is done by working closely with current businesses in the community, she explained. She feels the role the Town of Ponoka can play has several facets; approaching prospective businesses and ensuring services are available, finding gaps in the community residents would like to see, and bringing like-minded groups together.

“For example we do have an opportunities page on our website that identifies a few different things. For example we need a shoe store or different types of retail development,” she explained. “I feel economic development is a connector.”

She meets with real estate agents around the province who do business in the area to keep them updated on some of the changes happening to Ponoka. “Specifically because it helps their business.”

A business directory on the town website is another way the town is promoting businesses. She advises those who want to promote their business to contact her to ensure the correct address, a profile picture and description is on the site.

“It’s a free tool for our businesses,” she said.

There are two changes in Ponoka Olson looks forward to, one is the construction of the Western Budget motel as well as some businesses taking the initiative to promote themselves.

“I’m excited about some of the niche businesses we have and some of the interest our downtown businesses have taken in rejuvenating downtown. I think that enthusiasm is really, really exciting,” she explained.

She feels their initiative has opened the doors of communication with the town.

Home-based businesses are another aspect of the town’s growth, she stated. With 528 licenced businesses, 88 have home offices and 32 are home businesses. There are 209 businesses with storefront space, which can include retail or industrial. The other 199 licences come from businesses in the county or out of town businesses. With the amount of home-based businesses, Olson believes it is a positive sign.

“I think that’s really promising and it shows the entrepreneurial spirit that a lot of people in Ponoka seem to exemplify,” stated Olson.

The ag event centre is another change that seems to have had a positive effect on the town. Olson said the marketing study on the centre showed there would be a ripple effect because of the building.

“Is it only because the ag event centre is here? That’s hard to tell but I would strongly suspect that obviously they play a large part in helping to expand our tourism market for more days out of the year,” she said.

Ag event centre manager Chas Lambert feels there has been a large amount of people coming to Ponoka because of the centre.

“We’ve brought a lot of units into the community of the year.”

As ag event centre visitors prepare for their events Friday night and Saturday morning he has seen them head to town to conduct their weekend shopping. For businesses seeking to take advantage of the influx of people, Lambert suggested they take advantage of the advertising opportunities available.

Lambert used to manage the agricultural side of the Keystone Centre in Brandon, Man. and said the centre was one of the key draws for the city. He feels the ag centre is a catalyst for Ponoka’s growth.

He was also grateful for the support the centre has so far received.

“I think we’re very lucky to have support from local businesses,” he said. “The sky is the limit.”

The event centre is barely a year old and is already seeing groups book dates several years ahead. “We’re in the first year and already we’re looking very positive.”

Olson said the new splash park provides a reason to take a day trip and now the Summer Send Off appears to bring people to town. She commended the organizers for their efforts to bring businesses together to inform them of concert promoters’ plans.

Another way Olson hopes to have residents and businesses apprised of special events is the town’s community calendar on the town’s website. As more people inform the town office of their events it will help keep communication lines open, she said.

The challenge she currently faces is keeping the different groups communicating with each other. The Ponoka and District Chamber of Commerce, the economic development board, and now two newer groups, Ponoka Road Trip and the Ponoka Unique Merchants Assocation (PUMA) might have similar goals but different ways of promoting themselves.

Ponoka Road Trip

Sherry Gummow of Busted Ladies Lingerie is the chairman for Ponoka Road Trip, her goal is to bring business from out of town. “Most small budgets will advertise as well as their budgets will allow.”

Her goal was to bring businesses together and pool finances for a wide-reaching customer base. “$300 will get you nothing.”

By bringing these businesses together they have been able to take advantage of a grant from Travel Alberta. She believes working with the other businesses can make their marketing plans stronger.

“You’ve gotta be willing to work cooperatively,” she stated. “We are marketing Ponoka as a great place to go for a road trip.”

The group has just recently started so it will be some time before they know if the marketing has worked but Gummow always asks new customers how they heard about her business.

If customers start coming because of this marketing campaign she suggests businesses must follow through with hard work. “Then we have to outdo ourselves.”

The key to advertising is repeating the marketing campaign before they see results.

“You have to repeat, repeat, repeat normally before people take action,” she explained.


Danny Lineham of Siding 14 is working to promote some of the more “unique businesses.”

“We see the unique businesses as a means to bring interest in,” said Lineham.

He feels the Ponoka Unique Merchant’s Association’s goal is the same as Ponoka Road Trip and he hoped to keep communication open with the other groups in town.

He also feels there is a need for different businesses such as an antique shop and a specialty coffee shop. “There’s so many good ideas for Ponoka.”

Another way to increase shopping traffic is with groups such as the Klaglahachie Fine Arts Society, he said. Rather than a show once or twice a year he feels the group could bring produce more plays throughout the year. These ideas are some of the ways to bring people to town.

“I’m happy to work with anybody who’s trying to promote Ponoka,” he said. “And it can be done in different ways.”

He feels certain areas of Ponoka should be showcased more prominently. “The other thing with downtown is it’s an incredibly historic downtown.”

One thing appears to be the same with many of the groups working to promote Ponoka and that is to communicate with each other.

Just Posted

Ponoka council challenged on payments on new building

Resident continues worries the town is paying over $94,000 per month on something it may never own

Plan to pump into Gull Lake won’t happen in 2019

Two-stage filter process to be evaluated by Alberta Environment

Ponoka County denies rezoning over road responsibility issue

Application to parcel off land shot down by council due mainly to lack of access

Ponoka County council pleased with fire services budget

2019 budget presented to council include some higher operational costs

Ponoka Mayor presents to Lacombe Council reasons behind withholding school tax

Mayor Rick Bonnett requests a letter of support from the City of Lacombe

UK lawmakers reject Brexit deal in 432-202 vote

House of Commons votes against the deal struck between Britain’s government and the EU

WATCH: World-renowned illusionist, magician, escapist performs in Stettler

Matt Johnson performs two sold-out shows at Stettler Performing Arts Centre

Olivia and Liam top list for Alberta baby names in 2018

Premier Rachel Notley announced the top baby names in Alberta in 2018; Loki didn’t make the cut

Ponoka RCMP arrest man for impaired driving on QE2

Rocky Mountain House man arrested after erratic driving on the QE2

Edmonton Police charged 236 people with auto theft in 2018

Police states many of the thefts are crimes of opportunity

Official torchbearers for 2019 Canada Winter Games announced

Canada Games officials open time capsule from Grande Prairie Games in 1995

PHOTO: Telus donates $2,500 to Ponoka Big Brothers

Ponoka’s Big Brothers Big Sisters receives a $2,500 donation from Telus

Alberta Health Services, United Nurses of Alberta reach agreement to settle union grievance of nursing staffing shortage

Settlement includes the designation of 11.7 full-time-equivalent Registered Nurse relief positions

Woman’s complaint leads to sexual assault charge against Calgary priest

Malcolm Joe D’Souza, who is 62, has been charged with one count of sexual assault

Most Read