Year in review for Ponoka’s economic development

2015 has been a busy year for the town’s economic development department, which has taken steps to complete an action check list.

2015 has been a busy year for the town’s economic development department, which has taken steps to complete an action check list, set last year.

Stephen Novak, economic development officer for the Town of Ponoka and Justin Graham, chairperson of the Economic Development Board (EDB) spoke about what has been achieved in the outgoing year.

Most recently was the development of the Downtown Revitalization Committee, which is in the process of looking for members, explained Novak. Another new development is a tourism initiative in central Alberta, run through the Red Deer tourism office, the central Alberta destination management plan, which includes 10 municipalities. Planners within each town come together to set tourism goals for the future.

“The idea of the group is to kind of get a snapshot of where we are Are we taking advantage of all the tourism related industries in the area?” explained Novak.

The committee takes stock of key areas that could be promoted for tourism pusposes such as Ponoka’s river valley or trail systems. “The idea was to determine who the ‘ideal’ traveller is for central Alberta and then tailor everything to those people here.”

Novak says there is strong interest in experience-related tourism and each municipal member paid $5,000 with matching grant funds to commission a study to bring about a marketing campaign geared to the area. Municipalities in the Highway 2 corridor from Ponoka to Olds and Rimbey to Bashaw are included in the group. Graham was able to take part in a presentation of the committee and he feels positive about the future results.

The EDB has also taken on a more active role than in previous years, added Graham. Last spring the EDB met with Ponoka realtors to get an idea of commercial real estate and lease rates compared to other communities.

The purpose of the meeting, says Graham, was to find out about the cause behind empty commercial buildings. What resulted from that initial meeting was that Ponoka’s commercial rates are competitive with similar communities. While there was no real resolution or understanding of the reasons behind the empty buildings, it also helped him see other needs in town.

“They (realtors) brought to light a need for affordable housing, condominiums, things like that for young families. They want single attached dwellings. Apartment buildings, there’s a need for apartment buildings,” said Graham.

One of the challenges he sees for residents is also a change in perspective. Graham suggests there is a tendency to feel negative about shortcomings in different services in the community such as a choice in retail stores or availability of products, however, with a little search, people may find niche products within the different stores in town.

In-town orientation signage is also being developed and town residents will start to see signs throughout the community to specific destinations in town.

Graham says he looks forward to continued advocacy for Ponoka businesses and to attracting county businesses into the discussion for 2016. He added that a Ponoka County councillor is expected to join the EDB in an advisory capacity. Novak said the addition will be able to bridge communication gaps for the EDB and the town.

“It’sjustofferingforpeopletocomeinandbeapartofit,”addedNovak.

2015 has been a busy year for the town’s economic development department, which has taken steps to complete an action check list, set last year.

Stephen Novak, economic development officer for the Town of Ponoka and Justin Graham, chairperson of the Economic Development Board (EDB) spoke about what has been achieved in the outgoing year.

Most recently was the development of the Downtown Revitalization Committee, which is in the process of looking for members, explained Novak. Another new development is a tourism initiative in central Alberta, run through the Red Deer tourism office, the central Alberta destination management plan, which includes 10 municipalities. Planners within each town come together to set tourism goals for the future.

“The idea of the group is to kind of get a snapshot of where we are Are we taking advantage of all the tourism related industries in the area?” explained Novak.

The committee takes stock of key areas that could be promoted for tourism pusposes such as Ponoka’s river valley or trail systems. “The idea was to determine who the ‘ideal’ traveller is for central Alberta and then tailor everything to those people here.”

Novak says there is strong interest in experience-related tourism and each municipal member paid $5,000 with matching grant funds to commission a study to bring about a marketing campaign geared to the area. Municipalities in the Highway 2 corridor from Ponoka to Olds and Rimbey to Bashaw are included in the group. Graham was able to take part in a presentation of the committee and he feels positive about the future results.

The EDB has also taken on a more active role than in previous years, added Graham. Last spring the EDB met with Ponoka realtors to get an idea of commercial real estate and lease rates compared to other communities.

The purpose of the meeting, says Graham, was to find out about the cause behind empty commercial buildings. What resulted from that initial meeting was that Ponoka’s commercial rates are competitive with similar communities. While there was no real resolution or understanding of the reasons behind the empty buildings, it also helped him see other needs in town.

“They (realtors) brought to light a need for affordable housing, condominiums, things like that for young families. They want single attached dwellings. Apartment buildings, there’s a need for apartment buildings,” said Graham.

One of the challenges he sees for residents is also a change in perspective. Graham suggests there is a tendency to feel negative about shortcomings in different services in the community such as a choice in retail stores or availability of products, however, with a little search, people may find niche products within the different stores in town.

In-town orientation signage is also being developed and town residents will start to see signs throughout the community to specific destinations in town.

Graham says he looks forward to continued advocacy for Ponoka businesses and to attracting county businesses into the discussion for 2016. He added that a Ponoka County councillor is expected to join the EDB in an advisory capacity. Novak said the addition will be able to bridge communication gaps for the EDB and the town.

“It’s just offering for people to come in and be a part of it,” added Novak.