The Town of Okotoks Economic Development and the Okotoks Chamber of Commerce are working together to make the community a great place to do business.
Two new programs, the Warm Welcome and Business Visitation Program, are initiatives in the works to support and promote local business.
The Warm Welcome Program, which began a few weeks ago, aims to thank recently opened businesses for choosing Okotoks and also commends them for beginning their venture during a challenging economic time.
“It’s introducing that business to our local community. It is about creating awareness and making sure everybody in our town knows that that business is there, that they’re open and what they're all about, and that the business community supports them,” said Dawn LeMaistre, executive director for the chamber of commerce.
“We’re all working together to try and promote our town and our businesses, and just help everybody get through this as best they can.”
The program is an initiative put together by the Okotoks Entrepreneurial Ecosystem (OEE) which is comprised of the Okotoks Chamber of Commerce, the Town of Okotoks Economic Development, the Okotoks Business Association, the Okotoks Arts Council, Community Futures Highwood, MCG Career Group and Bow Valley College.
So far, businesses that have received a ‘warm welcome’ to the community are Yooneek Books on McRae Street and The Hidden Gem on Fisher Crescent. The plan is to feature a business that is opening in town every month, said LeMaistre.
During their welcome, new businesses are presented with a gift basket donated by Save-On-Foods and provided information about resources available to support them.
Brandy Tipper, who owns The Hidden Gem — a market-style store made up of independent vendors — with her husband Vic, said it was nice to be recognized by the community through the program and hopes it will bring attention to the business and contributing vendors.
“I know a lot of people spend a lot of time down on the main drag, but it’s nice to recognize the people, the businesses that are off the beaten path and not on that main drag,” she said.
Though the Business Visitation Program has yet to formally kick off, it aims to help increase communication between the Town of Okotoks and local businesses.
“We want to be able to talk with local businesses and communicate with them more about what challenges, what opportunities [they have] and we can provide them with resources that support them and their businesses,” said the town's economic development specialist Lorie Watson.
"With COVID there was a lot of impact on the business community and so the Business Visitation Program is something we thought to formalize to help support them [one-on-one].”
The Okotoks Community Growth and Investment Team will reach out to businesses to initiate meetings, focusing on providing resources and support, as well as a channel of communication for the business to express their needs and challenges.
Deanna Weder, economic development administrator with the town, said that the strategy is to work sector by sector to understand the concerns that each group and work with them to address them.
She noted the town has worked extensively on services that make owning a business in Okotoks seamless.
This includes online forms for business applications and licensing, and amendments to the Land Use Bylaw that expands choices for business location.
“We’re trying to get out there and let them know that we are here for them and we’re going to do what we can to help them along,” said Weder.
With the holiday season approaching, both the chamber and economic development are encouraging Okotokians to shop local. Mayor Tanya Thorn has encouraged patrons to fulfil 80 per cent of their gifts from businesses in town.
“Let’s do most of our shopping in town and support our businesses — it’s a great initiative,” Weder said. “We hope that everybody does that.”