St. Paul & District Chamber of Commerce hopes to have the surveys back and the data analyzed in time to have some action on project ideas for the spring of 2021.
The Chamber is working with the St. Paul/Elk Point (STEP) Economic Development Alliance to gather information about the local labour market, specifically business retention and expansion.
“We’re looking at what kind of things would help a business grow? Or what kind of things does a business need to be able to stay in business at this point,” said Linda Sallstrom, executive director of the St. Paul & District Chamber of Commerce.
“So we’re looking for those kinds of things. Because there’s only two ways for a business to grow, you either increase your audience, your customer base, or you increase your product and service base.”
She said she’s excited about the survey because it allows the communities to make forward steps in economic development.
“Now that COVID has hit, every community is looking at what they can do to stay competitive. What can they do to save their businesses? What can they do to grow their businesses. If we didn’t do anything, we would fall behind. And I don’t think that’s what we want or what we need. So I think that’s what is exciting about it is that we’re keeping our communities relevant,” said Sallstrom.
According to Sallstrom, the survey is funded through the ACP Grant the County of St. Paul applied for with the Town of St. Paul, Town of Elk Point, and Summer Village of Horseshoe Bay.
The Chamber was able to add the questions about business retention and expansion and workforce development to the labour market study which was already in progress when the COVID-19 pandemic shut down much of the province in March 2020.
The labour market study will be completed by March of 2021 as required by the grant received from Alberta Labour and Immigration.
“The survey has gone out now to our chamber members, it’s gotten to the Elk Point and Mallaig chambers, as well as some key stakeholders, including our committee to try and get that to, potentially all the businesses within the region.
“And when we’re talking about the region, we’re talking about that St. Paul, Elk Point, Summer Village of Horseshoe Bay. Basically everybody in the region so that we can capture as much information about both the labor market and the business retention piece,” said Sallstrom.
She said the chamber does hope to have a fairly quick turnaround on the survey because there is a real need for the information, which can be used by municipalities, realtors, and schools, among others.
“The STEP committee, the intention is to hire an economic development officer as well. So we’re working with a consultant now that is helping us with the study, the data collection, the project development, and also the development of a structure for an economic development officer to work under,” said Sallstrom, noting they had initially hoped to have the development officer hired in January but the target has now been pushed to April.
Once hired, the economic development officer would execute or help partner agencies implement whatever business retention projects are identified, “and also to identify other projects like attraction projects or initiatives to attract new development and new growth to our area as well.”
In order to encourage businesses to participate in the survey, the STEP committee and the St. Paul Chamber have put together an incentive package valued at $4370.
Any business which completes the survey is entered in to a draw to win a media package including five 10-minute live on-location videos with Lakeland Connect, thirty 30-second commercials on Windspeaker Radio, and fifty 30-second commercials on Stingray Radio stations in St. Paul, Bonnyville, and Cold Lake.
“We’re hoping to have around 200 surveys. So how long is that going to take, it’s how long we have to leave it open. We’re hoping we can do that in short order and still be done by the end of December. But we are willing to push that into that January, February timeframe,” said Sallstrom.