Red Deer still ranked as one of top entrepreneurial cities
Red Deer continues to distinguish itself as an entrepreneur-friendly city — at least as far as the number-crunchers at the Canadian Federation of Independent Business are concerned.
The national business advocacy group has ranked Red Deer as one of the top entrepreneurial cities in Canada: fourth out of 107 urban centres considered, and second among those with populations between 25,000 and 149,000.
Red Deer’s overall placement was an improvement from its sixth-place showing last year. In 2011 and 2010 the city was seventh on the CFIB list, and in 2009 it was 32nd.
Topping this year’s rankings, called Communities in Boom: Canada’s Top Entrepreneurial Cities, is a compilation of Calgary-area communities: Airdrie, Rocky View County, Cochrane and Chestermere. In second place is Lloydminster, followed by Saskatoon, Sask.; Red Deer and Leamington, Ont. Grande Prairie is sixth, with a group of communities around Toronto placing seventh. Rivière-du-Loup, Que. is eighth, the Edmonton-area communities of Strathcona County, St. Albert, Parkland, Spruce Grove and Leduc combined for ninth spot, and Rouyn-Noranda, Que. is 10th.
The city of Edmonton is 17th, while the city of Calgary is further down the list at 48th. The other Alberta communities ranked are the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo (15th), Lethbridge (30th) and Medicine Hat (35th).
John Sennema, manager of Red Deer’s Land and Economic Development Department, said he’s happy with the city’s strong showing in Communities in Boom. Such recognition boosts Red Deer’s image with prospective investors, he said.
“We’re getting more and more calls from different folks out of province who want to come and set up shop here,” said Sennema, adding that favourable showings in rankings like CFIB’s probably play a role.
How the city scores in the different criteria used by the CFIB in determining its rankings can also help identify areas where improvements might be needed, he said.
Those criteria, which number 14, are lumped into three broad categories: presence, perspective and policy. Presence refers to the scale and growth of business ownership, and industrial diversity; perspective to optimism and plans for growth; and policy to the influence of local government through actions like taxation and regulation.
The CFIB considered Red Deer’s scores to be “very strong” in the policy and perspective categories, and “moderate” when it came to presence.
In the case of policy, Sennema said the city has been working hard to create a business-friendly environment.
“When I talk to my coworkers and our other managers, we are trying to facilitate business,” he said. “There’s no doubt about that in my mind. It’s kind of nice to get that validation.”
He added that such efforts are a work in progress.
“We can always strive to be better on that front.”
Sennema said the city’s positive perspective score is consistent with what his department has been hearing.
“We know through our economic development strategy that there are many businesses that are looking to expand and hire.”
CFIB modified its methodology slightly for 2013. When those changes were applied to the 2012 data, Red Deer’s ranking for that year slipped from sixth to eighth — making its 2013 placement even more impressive.
Richard Truscott, the business organization’s Alberta director, said he was pleased to see Alberta communities rank high relative to the rest of the country.
“These cities continue to be relatively good entrepreneurial hot spots,” he said. “But it also means there’s still plenty of work to be done by all city governments in Alberta. A stronger focus on developing small business-friendly policies would surely improve their rankings even further.”
The CFIB represents more than 109,000 small and medium-sized businesses across Canada.