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Town urged to pursue businesses, people displaced by flood

High River residents and businesses who got flooded out in June should consider moving to higher ground in Fort Macleod.
Fort Macleod resident Don Gray wants the Chamber of Commerce to help High River residents make that decision.
Gray wrote the Chamber of Commerce to suggest Fort Macleod has an opportunity to put together a plan to help those flooded businesses while at the same time benefitting this community.
Chamber vice-president Brent Feyter read the letter Thursday during the group’s monthly meeting at the Rural Alberta Business Centre.
“I felt there was an opportunity to promote our town by offering a hand up to those experiencing the difficulties of relocation,” wrote Gray, who is a member of the economic development commission.
Gray wrote that people in High River, particularly “empty nesters” whose children are grown and gone and seniors, will consider moving.
“Fort Macleod with good will and growth could benefit by lending a hand to those who have to relocate,” Gray wrote. “Why not here?”
Gray said a “Come to Fort Macleod plan” should be prepared by key groups such as the Chamber.
Gray explained incentives could be offered to people who would relocate to Fort Macleod.
“We have a lot to offer in this community,” Gray told the Chamber. “It would be an exciting and rewarding opportunity for the town.”
Chamber member Leo Durand said Gray’s plan has merit.
“There is space here,” Durand said of Fort Macleod. “It’s just a matter of letting people know.”
Chamber members learned that Vulcan and Claresholm Chambers of Commerce have started similar recruitment initiatives.
Claresholm Chamber approached its town council to propose High River businesses be offered a break in property taxes as an incentive to relocate.
Claresholm Chamber also proposed the Town of Claresholm waive business licence fees, streamline the development process and actively promote the town as a relocation destination.
The Chamber also wants property owners in Claresholm to improve their buildings and offer displaced businesses an open lease.
“I know it’s got a little bit of a predatory connotation to it,” Leo Durand said. “You’re got to be careful how you do it.
Community Futures Alberta Southwest general manager Tony Walker agreed a delicate approach is needed.
Durand was told 13 houses have sold in Claresholm due in large part to people moving from High River.
Fort Macleod realtor Anne Barnes said she has heard those homes were sold to people considering moving to High River before the flood.
Feyter heard a report home sales in Calgary are up 17 per cent since the flood.
Durand said housing prices in Calgary are expected to increase 20 per cent.
Durand was also told home rent in High River has escalated to $3,500 to $5,000 a month due to the housing shortage. “That’s just insane.”
“Can you imagine that?” Durand said. “That’s called rape and plunder.”
The Fort Macleod Chamber executive will discuss Gray’s proposal and will put it on the agenda of the September meeting.

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