Jonathan Allan, economic development officer for the Town of Sundre, a central Alberta community, submitted this article as part of CADCR’s occasional series of economic development reports.
SUNDRE – If you were to sum up 2017 in a word, which word would you use? I’d use “decent.” This is because overall, 2017 was a pretty decent year for Sundre’s community economic development. We often see complaints on social media, but I would argue that Sundre’s economic situation is in a good spot.
Last year, Sundre experienced phenomenal results in tourism, with yet another record year achieved at the Visitor Information Centre. Our downtown commercial vacancy rate wasn’t stellar, but it improved and beat the year’s average by the end of the year – meaning 2018 is starting off right. In terms of development, the value of development permits doubled 2016’s, largely from higher residential home starts. And attached and detached homes for sale saw their time on the market reduced by a quarter.
The #ExploreSundre marketing campaign leverages funding provided by private partners, along with Town tax dollars, to promote the Sundre area. Over the last three years, the Town of Sundre has also successfully received close to $90,000 in grant funding from Travel Alberta to make the campaign successful. Every year, we set goals to achieve. 2017 was the best year that the #ExploreSundre campaign experienced since its inception, with next to all of our campaign partners achieving or surpassing their goals.
Looking at visitor stops to the Visitor Information Centre alone, the three-year average between 2015 and 2017 for attendance was a full 111% higher than the previous three-year average (2012-2014). This represents a remarkable growth in interest by visitors to the Sundre and West Country area.
We also look at the vacancy rate downtown based on the number of commercial units vacant in the C-1 zone, which is located between the Red Deer River, Bearberry Creek and Prairie Creek, by the IGA. Although throughout much of 2017 our vacancy rate was worse than 2016’s, it improved to 7% by December and beat the year’s average. Our target is 5% or less, so we still have some work to do in this area. Sundre Economic Development is continuing to provide programs to try and help local businesses stay competitive (contact the Town for info).
The value of development permits doubled in 2017 versus 2016. While development permits are issued not only for new construction, but for simple additions and renovations, as well, last year we saw a number of new home starts. These new homes will contribute to Sundre’s tax base, which will in turn fund community programs, and other initiatives. All these new homes were constructed in the southwest area of Town, within the Brookside and the Prairie Creek Crossing developments.
The attention we get from tourism leads to a desire for people to be part of our community. With the opening of the new Mountain View Seniors Housing facility, and the days on market for detached and semi-detached homes for sale down by 26%, Sundre’s population is increasing.
Because Sundre’s phenomenal quality of living features quick access to the mountains, trails, and outdoor opportunities, it’s no wonder why as a community we’re doing well and 2017 was a decent year for our Town. Remember to shop local; if you own a business, take advantage of local programs; and continue to keep exploring our beautiful trails located within Town. We’re one of the most well-positioned communities, with a dynamic economy and nature nearby. Let’s continue to embrace it and maintain our economic momentum.