Merchants in Black Diamond and Turner Valley are getting down to business the next several weeks as they work to build economic development in their towns.
Six residents with business and tourism experience were appointed to the Black Diamond Turner Valley Intermunicipal Economic Development Committee (IEDC) to create and implement a strategy focused on business investment, attraction and commercial growth this summer.
The committee will be driven by the business community in both towns while being guided by two members of each of the two councils.
“A consultant has already been hired to review the economic strategies of our Towns so the committee will have an excellent opportunity to work with MDB (Insight) to provide direction from the start, which will impact the collaboration of the economic development of the community,” said Coun. Jonathan Gordon, representing Turner Valley on the committee.
Gordon said the six appointed members were selected from about a dozen highly-qualified and diverse applicants.
These include David Farran, president of Eau Claire Distillery, who has experience in international marketing and financing; Leslie Miller, a member of the Black Diamond Economic Development Committee, who has experience in tourism, developing strategic business partnerships and government relations; and Mark Muller, Country Food Mart owner, who is well versed in the local economy.
The other members are Tarek Nemr, owner of Big Rock Gallery, who has experience in tourism marketing and retail; Chelsea Vogel, owner of two businesses, who has experience in marketing management, business development and promotion; and Matthew Wagstaff, co-owner of a retail business, who has financial and marketing skills.
Gordon said he considers the group a “phenomenally strong committee” due to the experience each brings to the table.
The Towns of Black Diamond and Turner Valley recently entered into a three-year share economic develop services agreement with the goal of implementing a joint economic development strategy, which will include research and analysis of economic conditions, demographics and income workforce through business workshops and surveys.
“Our councils believe it is necessary in order to provide important support to our current businesses and to also create an environment that encourages growth and new businesses,” said Gordon. “We believe that collaboration at this level is essential for the long-term success of a local business, regardless of location (whether in Black Diamond or Turner Valley).”
Gordon said the current tax base is primarily residential in both communities.
“If we are going to develop according to the current strategic priorities, we need to have a higher percentage of commercial tax revenue,” he said. “A strong community needs a better balance between residential and commercial taxation.”
Black Diamond Coun. Veronica Kloiber said the representing councillors’ role is to support the committee at large and report back to their respective councils throughout the process. She is one of Black Diamond’s two representatives.
Kloiber, who owns a civil engineering company in Black Diamond with her husband, said the committee will work to combine existing Town documents relating to economic development, as well as take stock of existing businesses and determine what’s lacking in the business community.
“For the committee itself they will take the plan/strategy and decide what to implement and how,” she said.
The two towns' 311 businesses received an invitation to attend workshops in both communities in mid-August to gain input on opportunities and barriers and understand the perspectives and expectations of the community.
Businesses will also participate in a survey this summer so the committee can gain an understanding of current and historic satisfaction as a place to own and operate a business and gain an understanding of the economic climate and needs.
The draft strategy is expected to be completed this fall.