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Business and tourism pros should be proud

By: Larry Horncastle

  |  Posted: Saturday, Apr 21, 2012 06:00 am

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Economic development has been debated and kicked around in the city and in recent columns of Business Buzz. However, I think it is extremely important to point out that the city has employed highly professional staff within the business and tourism development department (B&TD). Despite the many challenges thrown at them, they have conducted themselves with poise and dignity. They are skilled professionals (there were more certified professional economic developers on St. Albert’s team than in all of the Edmonton economic development corporation). St. Albert’s team has been recognized with numerous awards and was looked up to by their peers, not only in the Capital Region, but also across this great country and into the United States.

So, while everyone is debating what is right or wrong with business development in St. Albert, the B&TD team has remained steadfast in promoting the Join Us and Grow with Us campaigns. They have worked closely with individual businesses and served the community as volunteers on business and community associations such as the chamber of commerce and the Northern Alberta Business Incubator. This team of professionals have put together solid economic development plans including the city’s Economic Development Master Plan, the Tourism Master Plan, the Long Term Development Plan and have met or exceeded most of the goals within the various plans. Who knows what they may have achieved had they been given all the necessary ingredients for success, such as available land and corporate support.

The team has been recognized with a special “Friends of Business” award from the chamber of commerce for its efforts in working with local businesses. Despite the city’s poor reputation (or is it just perception?) for getting along with the business and development industry, this department goes above and beyond to ensure they represent the business needs.

When most were opposed to light industrial development in the city, this department engaged an outside, independent consultant to review the future needs for industrial development. This department led the introduction of the business license process and the demise of the old business tax. It now maintains a very detailed directory of businesses operating within the city, and has gone out of its way to ensure all new businesses receive a personal visit and welcome package.

This department initiated the community assessment, inviting Roger Brooks to view the city from the eyes of a visitor and recommend how first impressions of the city could be improved. This department initiated and still leads the branding of St. Albert as the Botanical Arts City. This branding effort has been duplicated by many Alberta cities in recent years, based on the outstanding success achieved in St. Albert.

Yet, when it comes to business and economic development decisions within city hall, this department is often left out of the picture. Where was the business development advice when the city opened its own business franchise in Servus Place? Were these business professionals even consulted about this business venture? Where is business and tourism development represented on the policy and process review, and the landowner/planning collaboration to work with landowners, developers and/or businesses wanting to set up in St. Albert? These initiatives were announced as part of the mayor’s 20-point economic development plan, but have not yet included participation from the core group involved in economic development.

Despite all the best efforts of this team, the city will lose a couple of major employers over the next year. These companies will be moving to new, larger premises outside St. Albert, after approaching the city several years ago to discuss their future needs in this community. These companies supported many St. Albert events with volunteers and sponsorship, and will likely continue this support, in their new communities. The City of St. Albert may not be matching the high growth rates experienced in other communities in the Capital Region, but it is not because of a lack of effort on behalf of B&TD.

There have been a few vacancies in this team over the past year, yet they soldier on, doing more with less. Now, it is understood that they will lead a new initiative that will recognize the best residential front yard landscaping. I am not sure how this relates to economic development, but rest assured, they will also tackle this new challenge and ensure that it is a huge success, because, after all, they are professionals.

Gung Ho my friends at business and tourism development. You should all be proud of your contributions to the City of St Albert and your profession.

(EDs note: This will be the last Business Buzz article from Larry Horncastle. Larry has decided to leave St Albert and pursue more opportunities for his consulting business (Keystone Strategies). We thank Larry for volunteering his time and effort to bring Business Buzz to our readers.

We wish Larry good luck in his future endeavours


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