Red Deer among the most business-friendly cities in the country

It’s slipped a bit down the entrepreneurial pole, but Red Deer can still claim to be one of the most business-friendly cities in the country.

It’s slipped a bit down the entrepreneurial pole, but Red Deer can still claim to be one of the most business-friendly cities in the country.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business’s 2014 rankings of the best communities in which to start and grow a business has assigned the No. 8 spot to Red Deer. That’s down from last year, when the city placed fourth, and from 2012, when it was sixth.

However, to be among the top 10 cities on a list of 122 is a noteworthy achievement, said Richard Truscott, the CFIB’s Alberta director. That shouldn’t be overshadowed by the loss or gain of a few positions from one year to the next.

“It’s far more important that we celebrate those cities that are in the top 10,” he said, noting Alberta’s strong presence in the upper end of the list.

Communities in this province hold the top eight spots, led by Lloydminster.

Ranked second and third respectively are the Calgary-area conglomeration of Airdrie, Rocky View, Cochrane and Chestermere, and the collection of Edmonton bedroom communities consisting of Strathcona County, St. Albert, Parkland, Spruce Grove, Leduc and several other smaller municipalities.

Fort McMurray is fourth, followed by Camrose, Grande Prairie, Brooks and Red Deer. Rounding out the top 10 are Saskatoon, Sask., and Collingwood, Ont. Alberta cities farther down the list are Medicine Hat (14th), Edmonton (17th), Lethbridge (24th), Calgary (29th) and Okotoks (36th).

“It’s great to see so many of Alberta’s cities land in the top 10,” said Truscott.

John Sennema, manager of Red Deer’s Land and Economic Development Department, was pleased to see Red Deer crack the top 10 of CFIB’s list for the fifth consecutive year — and also that other Alberta communities were also in the spotlight.

“It’s amazing to just see what Alberta is doing as a whole.”

Truscott thinks Alberta’s strong showing in the entrepreneurial rankings reflects more than the province’s endowment of natural resources.

“One of the reasons I personally believe Alberta does so well in terms of the national rankings is that the spirit of entrepreneurship is deep within the DNA of this province. It goes all the way back to when the province was settled; everybody who came here was taking risks and starting on something new.”

CFIB’s rankings are based on 14 criteria, which fall into three broad categories: presence, perspective and policy. Presence refers to the scale and growth of business ownership; perspective to optimism and plans for growth; and policy to the influence of local government through actions like taxation and regulation.

Red Deer earned 8.4 points out of a possible 25 for presence, 23.1 out of 35 for perspective, and 32.9 out of 40 for policy. The final category is important, said Truscott, because it’s within the control of the municipal government.

“Anything above 30 on this scale on the policy side is very respectable,” he said in praise of Red Deer’s performance.

Sennema said his department, and the city, are striving to better their performance in this area — both through existing programs and through new initiatives.

“Even in licensing and inspections, we are implementing different programs to become more customer-friendly.”

Sennema thinks the city can influence Red Deer’s scores in the other categories as well. He pointed to its efforts to bring the 2019 Canada Winter Games to Central Alberta as an example.

“The facilities that that brings to our region is going to make it a better place to live.”

Red Deer’s aggressive timelines in bringing land in the city-owned Queens Business Park to market is another illustration of how public policy can encourage entrepreneurship, said Sennema.

“One of our initiatives was to always have serviced, industrial land available, which helps business.”

The CFIB rankings included communities with more than 25,000 people. It used data collected from Statistics Canada and from surveys of CFIB’s own 109,000 members across Canada.

hrichards@bprda.wpengine.com

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