Red Deer slips in business ranking

Red Deer has been bumped from its throne as the best community for business in the province.

Motorists make their way up the Gaetz Avenue north hill on Thursday afternoon. Red Deer has been named one of the top-10 places to do business in Alberta although it was bumped from its perch as the top city on that list.

Red Deer has been bumped from its throne as the best community for business in the province.

However, it remains on the top-10 list compiled by Alberta Venture magazine.

The monthly business publication has declared the International Region — an area that includes Leduc, Beaumont, Calmar, Devon and Leduc County — as the best location to operate a business. Rental rates, land costs, taxes, market size, transportation access, licensing fees, average income, cost of living, post-secondary institutions and other amenities were among the factors considered.

A year ago, when Alberta Venture unveiled its inaugural list of business-friendly communities, Red Deer topped the field of 25.

The Central Alberta city was praised for its location on the Calgary-Edmonton corridor, and its proximity to the oilpatch, petrochemical plants and manufacturing, agricultural, food processing and construction activities.

Red Deer scored high in the labour, market access and special considerations categories in 2008.

The city is among Alberta Venture’s top 10 business communities this year, with the others Airdrie, Calgary, Camrose, Edmonton, Lethbridge, Lloydminster, Strathcona County and Strathmore.

Michael McCullough, the magazine’s editor, said the runners-up are not ranked — a departure from last year, when Lethbridge placed just behind Red Deer, followed by Strathcona County, Edmonton, Medicine Hat, Okotoks, the International Region, the Municipal District of Rocky View, St. Albert and Fort Saskatchewan.

“We picked out the number 1 overall, and then the others are basically in alphabetical order,” he said of the 2009 format.

“It was less about the competition and more about the realistic comparison, because if you’re a business person — depending on the kind of business you are — one community might have more to offer you than another.”

McCullough added that producing a numerical ranking sometimes meant splitting hairs, with the difference between communities very narrow in some categories.

The objective, he said, is to create a resource that businesses can use to assess their options.

“There’s this really rich database available to readers, whether they’re in Alberta or all around the world.”

That database will be available online, said McCullough, and might be updated on an ongoing basis. Information about more than 30 communities will be provided there, including things like average household incomes and commercial lease rates.

That online data can be found at albertaventure.com beginning June 1, he said.

Alberta Venture’s paper magazine will profile the top 10 communities, and should be available in stores and to subscribers in the next few days.

McCullough said his staff sent questionnaires to about 50 communities and also spoke with economic development authorities. In the case of the top respondents, they conducted local research to verify the information submitted.

The top 10 communities scored well when it came to growth indicators like long-term population increases, infrastructure improvements and other capital spending. Some benefited from a relative decline in business costs, due to the economic downturn, said McCullough.

Red Deer, despite losing its number 1 ranking, remains an attractive place for business people, he added.

“There’s no question Red Deer is still extremely well-located and a competitive place to do business in Alberta.”

hrichards@bprda.wpengine.com

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