An increase in the number of vacant properties was another visible sign in Red Deer of the economic downturn, but it appears investment interest is on the upswing.
According to city statistics, nearly 90 new businesses opened in Red Deer from 2017-18.
Three businesses are currently getting their permits to open up shop in Queens Business Park, said Red Deer land and economic development manager John Sennema.
“We are seeing some uptick on people making requests. That’s exciting.”
“We get a lot of these inquiries. We get a business say they need 30,000 square feet and a loading dock,” he said.
“So my (economic development officers) will go out and try to identify, with the real estate agents, what properties might be in play,” he said.
The city’s land and economic development department is working on an investment strategy that it plans to take before city council in the fall. Details are under wraps, but they will be looking at ways to spur development of vacant lots or brownfield properties, lands that have been left undeveloped, sometimes for years.
“Whether it’s an underutilized or a brownfield site, what can we do to move those developments along? I know that’s an active discussion, but at the end of the day, council is going to have to pull the trigger on whatever we go with there.
“Council is looking at some incentives, but they have to be strategic,” he said.
To make it easier for businesses to make the decision to invest, the city has created the Investment Opportunity Engine on its website. It provides all the information a potential investor could need, such as a link to pages on the Queens Business Park website.
A business attraction strategy was also completed earlier this year for the city. It identified 50 business prospects.
“We are actively as an economic development team identifying and contacting all of those different businesses to see if they want to expand into or come to Red Deer.”
Competition for investment is fierce across Alberta, and even on the city’s doorstep, where Red Deer County’s Gasoline Alley has had success in attracting businesses.
Competing with neighbouring counties is pretty much standard for most larger communities, said Sennema.
“That situation will always occur. What we need to do as a city is put our best foot forward and try to attract those businesses that need full service and target those kinds of businesses.”