Sylvan Lake is looking for ways to woo investment.
Town council has budgeted $47,000 for an investment attraction strategy to identify at least three viable industry sectors that can be promoted to potential investors.
“What we do hope to achieve here is really to prepare the community to become investment ready,” said Vicki Kurz, the town’s economic development officer.
“It’s about identifying the target sectors that are best suited to this community and the ones we should be going after if we’re going to attract some investment. It’s really about focusing in on what our value is to the outside investor.”
Kurz said part of the job for consultants will be building a database listing the number of businesses in different sectors and providing other basic information that is lacking.
“There are a lot of things that need to be done to bring us up to speed and identify where our strengths and weaknesses are.”
A request for proposals has just gone out and consultants will be picked around mid-March with adoption by council scheduled for October.
Attracting investment is high on council’s priority list, said Mayor Sean McIntyre.
“Basically the investment strategy is part of a specific direction from council to help diversify our tax base,” said McIntyre.
The goal is to create a community people can live, work and play in, he added.
“The truth is when you’re able to work inside a community, you’re more able to participate in everything that community has to offer.
“The residents who have been here for years know that Sylvan Lake is so much more than a bedroom community. What we’re doing now is aligning our policies and strategies with that idea.”
In its proposed 2014 budget, a tax freeze for non-residential properties is included as a business incentive.
McIntyre said they hope that sends a message to existing local businesses and potential newcomers that the community is open for business.
Also topping town council to-do lists is annexing more land, especially for commercial and industrial development. Heavy industrial property, especially, is not available.
The town also recently met with local developers and property owners to get feedback on how to streamline the development approval process. A facade improvement program will also be rolled out this year.
All of these efforts put together are aimed at evening out a tax base that is weighted heavily to residential. Only 13 per cent of taxes come from non-residential sources and the town is aiming to boost that to 30 per cent.
In the meantime, the town will continue its relationship with regional economic development initiatives, such as Central Alberta: Access Prosperity.
At the same time, annexation will move forward and it’s hoped to have an application before the province by the end of the year. It can takes months — and sometimes years — to get provincial approval.