Survey sheds light on development process

November 17, 2016
For immediate release


Survey sheds light on development process

Cold Lake, AB – The popularity of a recent survey held by the City of Cold Lake has opened up a few questions as to how businesses become established in the community.

“There seems to be a bit of confusion on how businesses come to Cold Lake,” said Howard Pinnock, General Manager of Planning and Development. “The City itself does not open up businesses, no matter how much support there might be.”

Rather, it is an individual or investors who needs to open the business.

“Although the city can provide incentives for businesses, someone other than the city needs to initiate the process,” explained Pinnock.

Typically, there are two ways to bring a franchise or business into Cold Lake. The first, is an individual willing to invest in the business will approach the head office, at which point the head office will look to see if Cold Lake is a good fit for the franchise’s business plans.

On the other hand, some franchises have a team of people looking for new locations as part of their business development strategy. If a community meets the parameters they set, they will advertise for an individual to invest in their franchise or to manage their operations. Often, as these businesses saturate larger centres, they move to a smaller communities and scale their outlets to fit the new communities’ needs.

“To support these larger businesses in looking at Cold Lake as an opportunity, the City attends various industry trade conferences to speak with business and franchise representatives to help put us on the map and make connections. But that is about as far as we can go,” said Pinnock.

Once a business has decided that Cold Lake is a place it wants to open up shop, the city’s Planning and Development Department is able to step in again. The person or group investing in a business requires a development permit to build or rent a space that fits into the City’s zoning bylaws.

“We always try and get to a ‘yes’ with the development,” said Planner Brad Schultz. “If someone wants to make something happen, we do all that we can on our end to help. As long as we can get to a point where what they are proposing fits with the City’s development standards and zoning regulations, we’re happy to welcome those businesses to the community.”

This means it is up to the investor to do their market research and build a business plan to see if their idea will be viable in Cold Lake.

“On the other hand, we do not have the authority to say ‘No’ to a business if it meets our land use bylaw standards,” continued Schultz. “If someone wants to come in and open up a certain type of business, so long as their location is properly zoned, we cannot legally say ‘No’ to them.

“We also cannot deny a development permit because the proposed business may create competition for an existing business, or because there are several types of related businesses already,” Schultz added. “It is up to a business’s investors to determine if their location meets with the needs of their business plan.”

The City of Cold Lake keeps businesses with similar impacts together, as outlined in the zoning bylaw. For example, a small convenience store would be allowed in a mostly residential area, but a big box store would not be allowed to plop itself in between two houses.

As for the recent survey conducted by the City on behalf of the Economic Development Advisory Committee, the results were better than expected. With over 1,000 responses, the City is still analyzing the results.

“The purpose of the survey was to find out what branches of the business sector could be improved upon,” explained Schultz. “It can help to guide people who might be looking to start or expand a business, by showing what type of a need isn’t being met by current businesses in the community.”

The survey will also give a representation on how often people leave the city, and for what kind of businesses, showing what might be a good area of opportunity for an individual to expand on that market in Cold Lake.

“Even if we have hundreds of people asking for a specific store by name, doesn’t mean that store is going to come to Cold Lake,” reminded Schultz. “However, a good way to help them conduct their market research, is by providing your postal code, if asked, at an out of town location. Even using a credit card or a loyalty card provides companies with the data they need to see where shoppers are coming from. If a certain postal code has a big enough market, they may look into setting up a franchise in that location.”

Results of the survey will be brought to the Economic Development Advisory Committee before being brought to City Council and made public.

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Thursday, November 17, 2016