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Regional business centre to unlock town’s potential

Linda Erickson, regional manager with Alberta Enterprise and Advanced Education

Mary-Jean Aubin of Alberta Human Services cut the cake at the grand opening of the new regional business development centre. From left: Linda Erickson of Alberta Enterprise and Advance Education, Aubin, small business advisor Srecko Ponjavic, advisory board member Henk Vanee and Coun. Sharan Randle.

The provincial government recognizes the critical role small business plays in Alberta’s economy.
The province is setting up regional business development centres in eight communities — including Fort Macleod — to support those small businesses.
“Small business is the heart and soul of Alberta’s entrepreneurial spirit,” said Linda Erickson, regional manager with Alberta Enterprise and Advanced Education.
Small businesses ranging from convenience stores and restaurants to manufacturing companies can be found in almost every community in Alberta.
The importance of those small businesses cannot be overstated, Erickson said.
“They employ countless Albertans and are the economic engines of our communities, including Fort Macleod,” said Erickson.
Erickson was a guest speaker Friday morning at the grand opening of the new regional business development centre in Fort Macleod.
The centre employs a small business advisor whose job it is to help prospective, new and existing businesses with planning, research and succession planning.
“Without small business our province’s growth simply would not be possible,” Erickson said. “Those small businesses have a big impact on Alberta’s economy.”
Small business represents 30 per cent of the total gross domestic product in Alberta and employ nearly half a million people — almost one-third of the workers in the province.
Ninety-six per cent of all businesses in Alberta are small businesses with less than 50 employees.
Sixty-three per cent of Alberta’s small businesses have one to four employees.
“The government of Alberta recognizes that supporting entrepreneurship — particularly at the local level — is a critical part of maintaining and growing the province’s economy,” Erickson said.
The regional business development centre is a partnership between the provincial government, the Town of Fort Macleod and the Chamber of Commerce.
“One of our main premises has always been to try and grow and support the business community in Fort Macleod and this is a tremendous opportunity for us,” Patience said.
The province is putting $235,000 into the pilot project over three years, and the Town of Fort Macleod is providing a building — the former visitor information centre at the east end of Main Street.
The Chamber of Commerce is paying some of the operating costs and will have office space in the building.
“It differs from economic development,” Patience said. “This facility really is here to help our businesses meet the challenges.”
Patience urged business owners to take advantages of the available resources and the expertise provided by small business advisor Srecko Ponjavic, who has a background in both small business and banking.
“We’re very much looking forward to this being a huge positive force in the community,” Patience said.
Ponjavic said the pilot project is an example of what teamwork and community can accomplish.
“This has been a long time coming,” Ponjavic said at the grand opening.
The centre has a public computer available, Wifi connection and other business resources.
“I’m really looking forward to seeing the growth in this community,” Ponjavic said. “This community has a ton of potential. There is so much potential here, and we have to work together to unlock the potential.”