UFA Co-operative Limited is finding Central Alberta is fertile ground for the farm and ranch product and fuel retailer.
A ground-breaking ceremony was held on Thursday for the Alberta-based agricultural co-op’s 16,000-square-foot farm store and cardlock fuel station in Red Deer County’s Gasoline Alley. It is a $15 to $20 million investment and will replace a store located in Red Deer’s Burnt Lake Business Park, just west of Red Deer.
It follows a significant investment in Stettler’s UFA Farm and Ranch Supply store, which celebrated its grand reopening a month ago after extensive renovations. The Fort Saskatchewan store has undergone a similar update.
UFA president and CEO Scott Bolton is bullish on the region’s agricultural producers.
“I think this is a statement in our belief in this community and the agriculture in general,” said Bolton. “I would say agriculture is not for the faint of heart, but it will be here for many generations and we intend to provide the services that farmers and ranchers need to do what they do.”
The Red Deer and Stettler investments are part of a larger updating and expansion program that has included branching out into the Saskatchewan market with a pair of new fuel outlets.
Bolton said with some of the next moves still in the planning stages he could not put a dollar figure on the upcoming investment.
“But we’re investing literally tens of millions, if not eventually hundreds of millions of dollars, in the economies of Alberta and Saskatchewan.”
The decision to move the Red Deer store to Gasoline Alley was driven by a number of factors, including the location nearby of a number of other businesses that cater to UFA’s customer base. The new location is also easily accessible from east and west of Highways 2 and 2A while sitting off the province’s key north-south link.
“We like the transportation access points and the fact it complements other businesses already in the area,” he said. “Many factors go into these decisions, trust me.”
The Burnt Lake store will remain open until the Gasoline Alley location is ready in late 2024. It will include a 12,000-square-foot retail store, large yard, chem shed, three-bay drive-through warehouse, and new Cardlock fuel service.
The Bar W office and shop and cardlock fuel station will continue to operate at the Burnt Lake site after the move. UFA has three petroleum agencies in Red Deer.
Red Deer County Mayor Jim Wood, who farms in the Delburne area, predicts the location will go over well in the farm community.
“When I look at this particular area, I believe us farmers are going to be able to get in and out easy,” he said.
UFA have been leaders in the province and Wood predicts it will continue to serve farmers successfully.
“The co-operative movement has meant so much to our farming community.”
Red Deer deputy mayor Michael Dawe said while UFA’s new location is in Gasoline Alley the benefits spread wide.
“When Central Alberta is built up it enriches the entire community.”
Bolton said UFA has the same challenges most businesses have faced since the pandemic, such as steep inflation and supply chain problems.
“COVID kicked off the supply chain challenges that we continue to grapple with,” he said.
“They are also contributed to what we’re dealing with now, which is a more inflationary economy and that has consequences when running a retail business like ours.”
Bolton expects supply chain issues to remain a factor for many years.”But we have learned to cope and find ways to get around the problems that they have created.
“That’s just the nature of business. We are adapting, and have adapted, and I think successfully, just as our farmers and ranchers adapt in their operations.”