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NB plans for economic development in 2024

Council gets an update from Econ development manager Jan Swanson on priorities for this year.
North Battleford held their latest Planning Committee meeting Feb. 21.

NORTH BATTLEFORD - The efforts to boost economic development in North Battleford were a focus at council’s Planning Committee meeting on Tuesday.

At that meeting council heard a presentation from Jan Swanson, the city’s Economic Development manager, on what they are doing this year. Here are some highlights of what the city is doing this year:

They have conducted cluster and industrial industry research with a view towards investment attraction and agriculture value-ad connections. An example of a cluster, he said, was in Meadow Lake where forestry was the industry and the value-added piece was dimensional lumber. 

Swanson is looking at doing something similar in North Battleford building on strengths in agriculture and the oil and gas industry. 

“We want to focus on the oil and gas industry. Are we getting our share of that particular business?” Swanson said in his presentation. “Agriculture, what can be done here? We need to have discussions with the sector to find out what it is they really want from us, what could be missing, or is it just servicing they’re expecting from us.”

Swanson also said that he and Mayor David Gillan had attended the ICSC (International Council of Shopping Centres) show. He particularly pointed to the face-to-face contacts they were able to make at the show.  “A lot of it has been promotion of the city, its assets, saying what would it take for you to come here,” Swanson said. 

In addition, North Battleford officials were also there to support Red Pheasant, who were promoting their strip mall development on their urban reserve. 

Swanson said inquiries have been increasing based on North Battleford’s attendance at that event, and Swanson said he will be tracking those to get a sense of what is coming in in terms of inquiries from the show.

Mayor Gillan said that while at the show they were heavily promoting some of the commercial opportunities available for development in North Battleford. 

In particular, they were heavily marketing a commercial area of nearly seven acres available to the east of Walmart, as well as a smaller parcel just south of there to the north of Co-op’s new strip mall.

“Of course there’s a lot of opportunity in that because people are very attracted to Walmart. Walmart drives volumes of traffic,” said Gillan. “So we spent a lot of time promoting this to these developers and a lot of them, believe it or not, immediately get it — because they develop beside Walmart and they understand this. They understand how to develop with cities with residents of under 50,000 population.”

He said there was a lot of interest in the land. “We need to go to the next step, though, because as much as there’s interest now we start asking questions like 'is it serviced?' 'How much per acre?' These are questions that are standard questions that all developers have.”

Outreach efforts will be key

Other key activities for the Economic Development manager have included presenting to his  peers in First Nations Economic Development, assisting with urban reserve service agreements, developing property packages and working with Destination Battlefords.

Outreach efforts will be a key focus in 2024. They are making efforts to attract professionals, remote workers and newcomers to the area through a landing page and articles, and they have social media ads going live now to target primarily Calgary, Edmonton and Saskatoon.

Their pitch to those professionals and workers is to come to a place where all the amenities are no more than a six minute drive away. “We are looking for the professionals and the newcomers who realize the expense of living and trying to start a business in the larger centres,” said Swanson.