Sylvan’s new economic development officer looks to growth opportunities

Attracting new business to a community can be an uphill battle. Matt Cornall thinks Sylvan Lake is well-equipped for the fight.

Attracting new business to a community can be an uphill battle. Matt Cornall thinks Sylvan Lake is well-equipped for the fight.

The town’s new economic development officer said Sylvan Lake has some compelling geographic weapons at its disposal. It’s strategically located on the Edmonton-Calgary corridor, with quick access to Highways 2 and 11, and connections to the oil and gas fields of west-Central Alberta.

“But it also gives your employees a chance to live in a really wonderful place, right on a lake,” he added.

Cornall, who previously worked as a business development co-ordinator with Williams Engineering Canada Inc. in Red Deer and an economic development co-ordinator with Allnorth Consultants Ltd. in Sylvan Lake, said attracting business is important to the rapidly growing resort community.

“What we can’t allow to happen is that it just becomes an area with a heck of a lot of residential and no industry to back it up, because our tax base then gets very much skewed.”

Sylvan Lake is at the stage where its growing population is attracting big retailers, said Cornall. And as box stores open in places like Ryders Square and Beju Industrial Park, they impact the town’s traditional centre of commerce in the downtown.

“That has an effect,” he acknowledged.

But it also creates an opportunity.

“I think the downtown area has the potential now to really kind of retool itself and really complement what we have on the eastern side of town, beside Hwy 20.”

The area is certainly a priority, said Cornall, noting the recent closure of Cobb’s (AG Foods) and decommissioning of the nearby Shell service station. New business could be sought to fill these voids, or perhaps the location would be appropriate for the urgent care facility that the town is pursuing.

“Could that be something that goes downtown? It might be a good location for it.”

Another possibility could be a satellite campus for an institution like Red Deer College, he added, or new office space.

Whatever the direction, Cornall thinks it’s important that guidance come from the local business community.

“We’re talking about business downtown in Sylvan Lake — the people that know that more than anyone else are the people down there.”

The Sylvan Lake Chamber of Commerce, he said, could play a key role in this process.

“We have a really strong chamber here and we want to build that relationship.”

hrichards@www.reddeeradvocate.com

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