Today’s Co-op looks a lot different than the one that primarily supplied Wetaskiwin with building and farming supplies when it opened back in 1917.
While it’s definitely still offering those things, it’s also doing so much more. Yes, there’s the new liquor store at Falun, the Wetaskiwin Co-op Project Centre for all the DIYers, and even a fashion department at the Home Centre. But one thing you may not have heard about is the connection another Wetaskiwin Co-op division has with the Calgary Zoo.
Beyond simply selling feed, Wetaskiwin Co-op’s feed manufacturing facility, Country Junction Feeds, has also created its own signature products for farmers in Canada and the United States … as well as clients like the Calgary Zoo. So, the next time you visit the elephants and whooping crane compounds, be sure to also remember the team at Country Junction Feeds who are helping keep them fed and healthy!
Innovation in business and community
The Co-op’s ongoing evolution is a testament to its commitment to Wetaskiwin and the opportunities for growth.
“We haven’t been afraid to move in a little different direction when the opportunity arises,” explains Allan Halter, Wetaskiwin Co-op General Manager, noting that beyond serving individual customers, a substantial part of the Co-op’s growth over its 105 years has been in its relationships with other businesses, including farms and animal feed retailers.
Through the challenges of COVID, a key goal for the team was keeping its 180 regular employees on the job – a number that grows up to 200 in the peak of summer.
Despite early economic concerns in 2021, their dedicated team and Wetaskiwin’s support for local business helped the Co-op achieve the biggest sales year in its history – success that will be shared with the community both through member rebates and support for local groups and organizations throughout 2022.
In addition to Co-op Cares, which provides local non-profits with up to $10,000 for capital projects, the Co-op offers a community support fund, gift card fundraising and discounts to eligible non-profits.
“Our profits stay in the community,” Halter emphasizes.
Another key metric of a business’s success is the longevity of its employees. Here in Wetaskiwin, many have marked decades with the Co-op, thanks to a competitive compensation and benefits package, and the team relationship.
“It’s one thing that sets us apart – we have very little turnover and I think that’s because we treat people well,” Halter says.
It’s also reflected in the team’s interactions with customers, creating a welcoming place to shop as well as work. “Customers know our team genuinely wants to help, and find solutions to their needs,” Allan says.
And that, paired with the Co-op’s continued innovation, is key to its success.
After all, “we have to give people a reason to buy local.”
This business profile is the first in a series from Wetaskiwin’s Economic Development office. To learn more about initiatives to grow local business and industry, visit wetaskiwin.ca/831/Invest-Wetaskiwin