South Peace News
A Big Lakes County councillor says business in High Prairie is going down and needs more support from the county.
“In my mind, the Town of High Prairie is dying,” Enilda – Big Meadow Councillor Donald Bissell says.
“If the town and county can get together and get businesses started, it would be beneficial to everyone,” Bissell says.
“Young people can’t afford to start a business and old people don’t want to spend more time in business.”
His comments were made at a county meeting March 13.
High Prairie and Area Chamber of Commerce president Barry Sharkawi welcomes Bissell’s suggestion.
“I’m glad Mr. Bissell [notices],” says Sharkawi.
“No one has approached us from the town or the county to what we might need. We’d be glad to work with them to improve our economy.”
One suggestion Bissell offers is to offer no-interest loans but it was met with immediate opposition.
“We’re not in the business of starting businesses, that’s free enterprise,” South Sunset House – Gilwood Councillor Ann Stewart says.
Reeve Richard Simard suggests stronger ties with the local chamber might spur and strengthen business.
“The chamber is looking to revitalize downtown,” Simard says.
“We could consider working with the chamber.”
CAO Jordan Panasiuk says High Prairie is already included in projects of the Big Lakes County Economic Development Authority.
“High Prairie is an economic hub for the region,” Panasiuk says.
He adds the county and town could create a joint economic development body.
However, the situation is not as bad as what many people may think, one councillor says.
“There are a lot more communities worse off than High Prairie,” North Gilwood – Triangle Councillor Ken Matthews says.
“Small stores are still viable.”
He says the provincial economy impacts small businesses and small towns.
Prices and selection are two issues that councillors say challenges local businesses.
“High Prairie out-prices itself,” Stewart says.
Big-box stores and online shopping also hurt small store and small towns, says one councillor.
“You can’t compete with big stores and online shopping,” Kinuso Councillor Ken Killeen says.
“It’s bad all over.”
He says when he goes to Slave Lake on a Saturday, half of the shoppers are from the High Prairie and the Big Lakes area.
High Prairie Mayor Brian Panasiuk declined comment.