Red Deer business community waits for ‘shining star’ in 2019

With the provincial election and the upcoming Canada Winter Games, this year promises change for Red Deer and central Alberta businesses.

The Red Deer & District Chamber of Commerce and local businesses will be keeping a close eye on the policies that come out during the provincial election, said Rick More, interim CEO at the chamber.

“We will see what the voters want and what their priorities are,” said More.

There’s a lot of doubt and no optimism going into 2019.

“We’re looking for that one big thing — be it the pipeline or anything like that — the optimism comes with policy changes and big events.”

So in the meantime, people are “waiting for that shining star.”

Numerous rallies and truck convoys have been held across Alberta and Saskatchewan in recent weeks to protest against federal actions that critics say will make building pipelines more difficult. Those include Bill C-69 to revamp the National Energy Board and Bill C-48, which would ban oil tanker traffic on British Columbia’s northern coast.

More expects the voices to be louder – be it from the environmental or the oilfield groups.

“It’s going to grow in 2019 – people are more expressive nowadays.”

Last year had it’s struggles, from minimum wage increases to carbon taxes and the looming recession.

But it was not all bad news, said More, pointing to Agri-Trade 2018 and the Canadian Finals Rodeo, a first for the city.

“So it was not all doom and gloom,” he said.

The rodeo put “Red Deer on the map again” and businesses had “two very good weeks of consumer spending.”

The chamber saw a nine per cent increase in its members – local businesses – in 2018, bringing the total to 848.

Speaking of the struggles, More said central Alberta has not pulled out of the recession yet.

“Recessions are unfortunately caused by talk of recession really. It’s not that people don’t have money in a lot of cases, but they’re a little more protective of it and spend less,” he said.

More said it was too early to tell whether holiday shopping was successful for the local business community.

“Obviously, the malls were packed, but there’s also the battle with retailers with online shopping.”

The minimum wage increase to $15 an hour in October will hurt the younger generations, the interim CEO said, adding the cost of business is going up, which is slowly driving up prices.

“They have to, to survive… it’s been tough on the service industry for sure.”

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