2014 was a big year in terms of community input including the Roger Brooks Community Assessment discussions to the Community Visioning Process, in addition to consulting with the developers to streamline the development process.
On the business side of things, 564 storefront businesses registered in town, which translates to an overall increase of 2.3% in comparison to last year. Details on final calculations are still being determined.
We saw a quite a few new businesses opening their doors including several Food and Beverage establishments, DNI Energy Product Inc.; Carter’s Oshkosh; The Best Western Plus Okotoks Inn and Suites (Okotoks’ first full service hotel); Sports Check; Pet Smart and more.
This past year Economic Development responded to approximately 450 inquiries, ranging from demographic requests, business start-up questions, business licensing, real estate ideas, and general economic development questions from existing businesses. Of this amount, approximately 85 major inquiries required various levels of staff time for research, responses and follow up.
Economic Development actively markets and promotes numerous business development and investment opportunities by facilitating referrals between interested businesses and the development community, while delivering presentations to various groups.
The Town of Okotoks sold two industrial lots in 2014 and is currently working on additional industrial land sales.
Finally, Calgary provided a letter to Okotoks endorsing the water pipeline for the future growth of Okotoks, catering to the residential and business needs.
In 2014, Okotoks was ranked by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) as one of the top places to start and grow business.
On the events/tourism side of things, a new event, the Foothills Holiday Roadshow, was added to the annual community events. The Olde Towne Passport program, in conjunction with the Happy Shopping Hour Thursday campaign, increased holiday business on average by 30% for downtown businesses.
Okotoks took the lead on the regional tourism partnership for the Cool Little Towns initiative. The partnership received a $50,000 grant to increase the regional promotional capacity and program development, which is now moving into the second phase in 2015.
Finally, the Province included Okotoks in their investment brochure and invited Okotoks to participate in the one day Tourism Investment Symposium. Participation led to various inquiries and interest by hotel chains and developers.
Okotoks continues to thrive, and despite the tumbling oil prices entrepreneurial and business start-up and expansion inquiries remain steady into the new year. 2015 will bring new ventures and opportunities and Okotoks Economic Development is looking forward to taking its initiatives to the next level.