Stakeholder group formed to help drive economic ideas in Swift Current

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Members of Swift Current's Business Retention and Expansion Committee unveiled their upcoming business survey initiative on Monday. Committee members are (L to R): Sandra Blyth from consulting firm Onagon International; John Parker, GM Community Futures Southwest; Darla Lindbjerg, CEO of the Swift Current and District Chamber of Commerce; Mayor Jerrod Schafer; Marty Salberg, City of Swift Current Director of Business Development; Murray Walter, Economic Advisory Committee representative, plus Chief Administrative Officer Susan Motkaluk. Missing from the photo were representatives from Swift Current Tourism, the RM of Swift Current, the Swift Current Downtown Business Association, Great Plains College and Overtime Communications.

The City of Swift Current is turning to a series of homegrown business experts and will be tapping into the business community in order to develop initiatives to continue growth in the City.

A media event was hosted on Dec. 9, where Swift Current's Business Retention and Expansion Committee unveiled their initiative to engage the business community with a survey to help identify opportunities for growth.

"As a forward thinking community we must work together to attain it," explained City of Swift Current CAO Susan Motkaluk. "We can not simply wait for the good times to roll in. By working together we can create opportunities and prosperity for us all. We want to ensure sure that our city, and our region, are drivers of economic prosperity in Saskatchewan, especially during these exciting times of growth."

Motkaluk highlighted that City Hall has been pushing a series of economic planning efforts, starting with the formation of the Economic Advisory Committee last spring. Earlier this year, through their Economic Development Division, the City engaged in a process of accessing the economic landscape in order to identify opportunities for Swift Current's success. They are currently putting together an 'economic picture' of Swift Current, comparing the community to seven other provincial cities, and developing a valuable tool to focus attention on areas of opportunity and growth.

"For us to focus our efforts we really wanted to know what areas of priorities exist," she said.

Swift Current Mayor Jerrod Schafer said the City's business retention and expansion efforts are key to the continued growth of the city and region.

"There's lot of effort going into it and it's important," Schafer said. "We can simply sit back and ride the momentum that the province has, but I think this is a proactive approach to engage our business community and do all we can to continue to grow our City as we move forward."

"We're really fortunate. We've got a wealth of very successful business people here in Swift Current and I think our efforts to establish an Economic Advisory Committee we're trying to tap into that knowledge and that expertise and that experience as best we can and that's going to help us do a better job doing all we can to attract more."

While the idea of this current initiative is similar in scope to the efforts of Action Swift Current, this current framework reinforces the desire to have the community move forward together.

"It's probably similar in terms of thought, in the fact that we really want to engage our community and work collaboratively to build a model going forward. Specifically this is focussed on things that we can do to improve the business climate for businesses that are already here, and what our shortcomings or opportunities that we can also provide to attract new business as well."

"I think it's great that it's a collaborative approach and we're working together to grow the community."

During January, the Business Retention and Expansion Committee (BRE) will be releasing an on-line survey to the business community in order to gauge the current business climate and identify the growth opportunities that exist. Community Futures Southwest invested $15,000 in the venture in order to bring together strategic alliances and continues moving the community towards a common goal.

"This BRE survey is a critical step in our economic analysis," Motkaluk said. "The goal of the survey is to identify business needs and opportunities in our community by talking directly to local businesses."

"I don't want to call them gaps per say, but there's areas where we can do better. And so we can attract investments, or attract business in some key areas and it can unlock or drive or prosper some opportunities in our region. So by focussing our attempts I think we'll get more of an outcome than perhaps if we just continued status quo," Motkaluk added.

"Once the economic analysis is completed, and the BRE survey results are compiled, we will have a solid picture of where we are at, and more importantly potentially where we will go."

Darla Lindbjerg, CEO of the Swift Current and District Chamber of Commerce is pleased to see the City seeking a business voice while looking for ways to grow the City.

"If we can get businesses' perspective on their current situation, and what they need going forward, we can make a huge impact in the community, not only for existing business but to bring new business in," Lindbjerg said.

"If we see an area within the community that needs some attention we're going to look at that area and we're going to work towards addressing it and essentially fixing it, creating solutions for the issues going on in Swift Current right now."

The members of the Business Retention and Expansion Committee represent government, service providers, agencies, businesses, and all representatives have a common interest of supporting the business community in an effort to ensure the continued growth and prosperity of Swift Current and area.

Organizations: Business Retention and Expansion Committee, Economic Advisory Committee, BRE Economic Development Division Swift Current and District Chamber of Commerce

Geographic location: Swift Current, Saskatchewan

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