What does a business-centric community look like? Parkland County is quickly shaping up to be a strong model for counties that may be looking to prioritize the same commitment to business growth and diversity.
There is no question that Parkland County makes supporting its businesses a priority. As Mark Edwards, Director, Economic Diversification, explains, “At Parkland County, providing exceptional support and continuous outreach services are the most important aspects in supporting our business community.”
And the County’s efforts haven’t come unrewarded. “Through responsive, accountable and responsible leadership,” Edwards adds, “the County has experienced growth in both business expansion and new development.
“Parkland County continues to evolve with the ever-changing business community, as proven by the solution-based changes to our land use bylaw. While looking through the lens of innovation and open-mindedness, we address challenges and opportunities we face while staying focused on increasing the well-being of Parkland County economically, socially and environmentally. In doing so, we have become very business-centric in our approach to how we work with all businesses and community partners.”
In its efforts to become business-centric, the County has implemented a number of programs to help support business growth and development.
As one example, Edwards points to the County’s flexible land use. “The County has developed a new district to help grow with industry needs: BIR – Regional Business Industrial District. This land use accommodates a range of industrial and industrial support services that typically provide logistics, manufacturing/processing, professional office, or research and development functions. Developments within this land use typically require larger parcels adjacent to regional transportation routes.
“Parkland County also offers a Major Business Attraction Program to support large, complex industry projects,” Edwards notes. “Through the program, a dedicated team aids businesses that are in the process of either building a new operation or relocating an existing one to Parkland County.”
Parkland County also “engages with external stakeholders, such as NAIOP (previously the National Association for Industrial and Office Parks and now the Commercial Real Estate Development Association), to gain perspective from the business community.” Edwards also stresses that the County prioritizes a “customer service focus [by providing] quick response times and access to pre-application meetings in order to save time and provide certainty when necessary.”
“Maintaining a focus on being business-centric has become one of our competitive advantages in a time when new growth to the region has become exceptionally competitive,” Edwards observes. It’s also a leading edge that has allowed the County to celebrate its new growth and diversity by attracting a number of new businesses to the area.
Some of the new businesses that have opened in Parkland County in 2018 include Pinnacle Renewable Energy Inc., North American Construction Group, Freedom Cannabis, Frac Shack International Inc., Western Archives and Shredding, Fraser Bros Roofing Ltd., Finning Used Equipment Supercentre, and Streamline Fire Protection Ltd.
“A diversified economy is robust and provides long-term stability for the County,” says Edwards. “Business diversity is important for Parkland County and also our business community. It is how we all continue to maintain and grow business.”
The County’s business-centric focus has also helped pave the way for a number of success stories, including United Construction Company (UCC). Originally established in 2005, the company moved to Acheson in October 2014 and within two years had won the area’s Business of the Year Award.
“We are a group of construction professionals that bring together diverse experiences while sharing common goals and values – our workplace culture is integral to our continued growth,” says Frank Santoro, Vice President of Operations with UCC. “Specifically to Acheson, the highway exposure, value to land and ease of access throughout the city makes employment attractive while at the same time simplifying operations.”
A commercial general contractor, UCC is a ContractorCheck accredited member and won the top project under $50 million in Alberta Construction Magazine. Accolades are not new to the company – they received an ABA Bricks and Mortar Award in both 2015 (Head Office) and 2016 (Techmation) as well as were named one of Alberta’s Best Workplaces in 2016.
“Diversifying our business across four sectors of construction – commercial/retail, light industrial, institutional and multi-family residential has allowed us to weather industry and market-specific conditions while at the same time, transfer best practices across build types,” says Santoro.
He also credits the company’s location in Parkland County as a reason for the success. “Parkland County is open for business. County administration and support teams are always willing to promote UCC whenever possible. A diverse group of businesses well situated goes a long way towards building a thriving business. Many organizations look locally for services, which is an added benefit.”
Another long-standing business calling Parkland County home is Hayworth Equipment Sales. As Cathy Dool, business development, Hayworth, points out, “Hayworth Equipment Sales has been doing business in Parkland County since 1986, and as the Acheson area grows, it offers employment opportunities, cross marketing and services with other businesses in the area.
“An entrepreneur at heart, our founder, Elmer Schmidek, packed up his family of seven, moved from Hinton to Edmonton, purchased an old gas station, converted it into a small office and started operating as Edmonton’s first truck and trailer consignment centre,” Dool notes of the business’s history. “When we opened our doors in 1975, we were based out of West Edmonton, on the corner of Stony Plain Road and 178th Street.
“In the 43 years we’ve been in business,” Dool adds, “we’ve seen and done a lot. The business was passed from parents to children, we’ve moved a few times, survived a couple of economic recessions, expanded our services and product offering, and continued to put emphasis on providing our customers with unique solutions built for their exact applications.”
However, as Dool points out, it isn’t just because of Parkland County’s support that its businesses are thriving; the relationship between the County and its businesses is an inter-reliant one. Parkland County’s growing businesses “are an economic driver that assists the whole County with services and taxes.”
So, in short, how do you create a strong community that is supported by an equally strong, diverse and growing economy? You invest in the areas of your county that help to foster business growth and encourage new business investments. It’s a strong community and business model, the success of which Parkland County is proud to be clear proof.