Jim Matheson of J.D. Enterprises speaks to potential customers Saturday at the Red Deer Home Show. (Photo by Lana Michelin/Advocate staff)

Jim Matheson of J.D. Enterprises speaks to potential customers Saturday at the Red Deer Home Show. (Photo by Lana Michelin/Advocate staff)

Red Deer-area businesses ‘cautiously optimistic’ economy is starting to recover

Small signs of improvement are already noticed

Central Alberta business leaders sees glimmers of hope for an improved economy in 2017.

Signs of optimism, according to Ryan Philip, owner of Red Deer Lighting, include the sight of home builders pouring new basements, and contractors reporting home renovations are “way up.”

While Philip’s company, like most, has adjusted its financial projections to reflect the reality of fallen oil prices making a slow recovery, he noted that economic gains happen in stages — starting with job growth, an increase in consumer spending, and more house starts.

Companies dealing in products such as lighting will only feel a positive impact about six months after a construction surge begins, added Philip, who helped staff a booth at the Red Deer Home Show on Saturday.

“I think we’ll really start seeing some improvement by the third quarter.”

Other Red Deer vendors were also reservedly optimistic that the local economy had turned a corner.

Jim Matheson, a contractor with J.D. Enterprises, is getting more requests for quotes from potential customers. “Last year, I had some people back out (of projects) because they lost their jobs. This year, a couple of them came back” and are talking about now going ahead.

“I don’t have a bad feeling,” Matheson added — in fact, his company’s summer work schedule has almost filled up.

“Compared to last year, things have definitely improved,” said Mike Wood, a salesperson with Davex Construction. In 2016, “people were asking us, ‘Can you come out and look at our roof to see if we can get one more year out of it, please?’ Whereas now, they’re actually looking at having some work done.”

When looking ahead at the rest of 2017, Gerald Proteau, sales director of Larkaun Homes, said “put me down as cautiously optimistic.”

The higher-end home builder has always attracted some clients with money enough to build, but Proteau believes Central Alberta’s economy has generally been “a tough slog” — with much room for improvement.

With some recent job gains in the area, “I sense the people’s mood is better — will it translate into full optimism? I’m not sure yet…”

However, there were Central Albertans at the home show with the confidence to spend — including Ken Hague, of Innisfail, who was looking for home renovation ideas with his wife Gisele.

Hague, who had been unemployed for a year and a half, recently found work again as an oilfield firefighter. “Now that I’m back to work, we thought it was a good time” to start the renos, he added.