According to a presentation at the 2024 February Chamber Luncheon by the city’s Economic Development Manager, Vern May, as many as 45 new Qiam Noori, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The City of Wetaskiwin presented its economic development recap for 2023 on Feb. 2 to the Leduc, Nisku & Wetaskiwin Regional Chamber of Commerce. 

According to a presentation at the 2024 February Chamber Luncheon by the city’s Economic Development Manager, Vern May, as many as 45 new businesses were opened in the city in 2023. 

According to May, a local business was also purchased by an entrepreneur the previous year, and it is now expanding. 

“Overall, the economic situation is a positive story to tell. We’ve got an aggressive amount of interest from outside investors coming into the community – both across Canada and internationally,” May said at the recap event. 

May says that at least 120 jobs were created in 2023. 

In the meantime, May adds that Alberta’s Rural Renewal Stream program allows employers to hire from anywhere in the world. 

The event has also attracted some potential investors from other parts of the country. 

Nakul Sood, a real estate investor from Ontario, is exploring his options to invest in the city. 

Sood says they are capable of investments ranging from $200k all the way up to $1.5 million if their needs are satisfied in Wetaskiwin. 

“If the city is open to offer what we need, then we are open to invest as long as we see there’s a potential for return,” Sood said. 

Sood hasn’t decided where he might invest, but he’s optimistic about the future of the city. 

The city said they’ve issued 52 development and 76 building permits in 2023 worth close to $30 million. 

There are currently 837 active business licenses in the city, as per the city’s data. 

But security is still a major issue for businesses in the city. 

Arfan Bhatti, a Wetaskiwin-based business owner, says homeless people’s shoplifting has disappointed him. 

“We have a shoplifting issue. The homeless people are stealing from shops,” Arfan said. 

“They behave like it’s their right to steal. Security is the major issue.” 

High rates of property taxes in Wetaskiwin are another issue that jeopardizes investors coming to the city. 

Batthi says they’ve shared these concerns with the city, but a solution has yet to be offered. 

In response to high property tax rates, May says that the tax burden can be alleviated through industrial development. 

“The way to deal with high taxes is to encourage development.” 

“The more diverse your economy, the more option to ease the tax burden. And it’s not going to be housing development, it has to be done via industrial growth,” May noted. 

As per the recap, Wetaskiwin has seen a $400k increase in revenue stemming from tourism. 

At the event, the city said that they’d tracked 65,000 visitors by 2023. 

By Qiam Noori, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Feb 05, 2024 at 15:41

This item reprinted with permission from   Ponoka News   Ponoka News, Alberta

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