A healthy economy is a vital component of a healthy community.
That understanding is at the heart of Wetaskiwin Council’s focus on building the economy as a cornerstone of its strategic plan, alongside community, infrastructure and governance. The City recently welcomed Candace Coughlan to the team as Manager of Economic Development to bring these goals to fruition.
With some 110 stakeholder meetings so far, it’s been a busy five months as Coughlan works with businesses to understand their needs and take a solution-based approach to address them, mentioning this is a top priority.
“It’s an exciting time to be working with our local business community,” said Coughlan. “From connecting businesses with internal departments, to working with the Chamber on targeted event topics and helping prepare for expansion plans, I have been very engaged — and welcomed by — the local business owners and business support organizations.”
Welcome to Wetaskiwin
While ensuring support for the current business community is her first concern, Coughlan notes, working with developers, realtors and prospective industrial and commercial businesses to attract additional investment are also of high importance.
After completing an investment readiness assessment, Coughlan’s first step in attracting investment is gathering and providing information that entices investors to locate in Wetaskiwin. Projects in the works include building a community profile, undertaking a business mix and gap analysis, and inventorying vacant land and buildings in the City. “Once we have this information, a targeted marketing approach will assist in attracting additional investment,” Coughlan says, pointing to geographic areas of focus, including South East Industrial, Main Street, the airport and the Automile.
Wetaskiwin’s Economic Development department also assists in building a community brand and marketing opportunities with the aim of growing commercial, industrial and residential sectors – a priority for 2020.
Having accurate data allows the City to make informed decisions to grow and develop both the commercial and industrial sectors while also ensuring current businesses are thriving as well.
A year for growth, with more to come
These efforts will further support a growing business community. In 2019, despite the sluggish provincial economy, Wetaskiwin pushed forward approving additional developments valued at $18 million – a 12.7 per cent increase over 2018. Major projects include:
- 65,000 sq. ft. addition to the Home Hardware Western Distribution Centre
- Maple Leaf Foods doubling the size of their hatchery
- Multi-million dollar renovation to Walmart
- 36-unit apartment building
- Grand opening of Tangerine RV and Storage
That economic momentum is expected to continue into 2020, with the recent announcement of a commercial development on the corner of Main Street and the Automile that will boast a new Starbucks, Booster Juice and additional services, Coughlan says.