Sylvan Lake was recently named by Alberta Venture magazine as one of the ‘Top 12 Great Communities for Business’ in their November edition.
Vicki Kurz, Sylvan Lake’s economic development officer, said the recognition came after years of hard work by the Town.
“We put a lot of time and effort into creating and raising the economic profile and getting our investment attraction and readiness tools inplace,” said Kurz during an interview with Sylvan Lake News. “That’s what we’ve been focusing on and it seems like it’s paying off.”
Kurz said over the last two years one of the things she and the Town are most proud of has been the Retail Gap Analysis which identified thetypes of businesses the town should be trying to attract.
In addition she said the Economic Impact Assessment conducted in 2014 and approved by Council in 2015 really showed the significance ofthe work they have been doing to attract to new businesses to Sylvan.
“It really tells you where and how we are ranked in the province in terms of and in respect to tourism,” said Kurz. “It was a snap shot in timeconducted over July and August of 2014 and it showed we had over 761,000 visitors in those two months and a total economic impact forthe year of $75 million.”
She stated most businesses do not look at a town’s quality of life before investing there, but in Sylvan Lake they are seeing many scientific,technical, service types of people moving here and those individuals find it ideal to be half way between Edmonton and Calgary while stillhaving their family in a lake-side community.
In addition, she believes the lake itself plays a large role in their being listed among the top 12 communities, citing an example of twobusinesses visiting her this week who hope to start more attractions down at the lake.
She noted the 10% growth in population over the last few years has posed a challenge to Sylvan Lake, as they are having to catch up on theirinfrastructure, but it does tell them that they are an interesting community to those looking to relocate.
“We have a very young population and people must like what we are doing here because they are choosing to move here – so I think that10% growth rate in population is reflective of the town and what people like about the town,” she said.
Recently, the highlight of Kurz economic development has been in the downtown area. Over the past number of years the Town has investedover $22 million into the downtown zone, and currently Kurz is working with downtown business owners and property owners to revitalizethe waterfront commercial district.
“In reality the downtown area did not used to be a very welcoming business community a few years ago,” said Kurz. “This is changing in thateveryone has agreed it is time to do what we can to revitalize the downtown.”
In this regard, the town is also offering a $7,500 facade improvement grant to downtown businesses wishing to give the outside of theirstore front a face lift.
“Council and administration have been very supportive,” said Kurz. “We couldn’t have done this alone and without their support to do thething we needed to do to make ourselves investment attraction ready and that was critical and it really seems like we’re moving in the rightdirection.”
“It really is about putting your community on the map – we are trying to promote the town in the best light we can.”
Other communities who made the list include Airdrie, Camrose, Devon, Edmonton, Grande Prairie, Leduc Lethbridge, Lloydminster, Newell,Red Deer and Rocky View County.