Chamber moves ahead on an incubator plan

The Rimbey Chamber of Commerce is moving ahead on an action plan to bring new life to the downtown core.

The Rimbey Chamber of Commerce is moving ahead on an action plan to bring new life to the downtown core.

President Jackie Stratton said an incubator program successfully initiated in Rocky Mountain House as part of the Rural Alberta Business Centre Pilot program has caught the eye of the chamber.

“We (the chamber) plan to host a meeting at the Best Western Rimstone Ridge Hotel at 7 p.m. on Nov. 7 to get the buzz going,” she said. “We want lots of people to come and share their ideas and talk to others. Everybody knows somebody that knows somebody and w want to spread the word. A lot of people we’ve talked to think it’s a good idea, but we need to take action.”

“The program in Rocky is hugely successful and we are interested in having a similar program here. It is certainly doable, but there are lots of kinks to work out yet.”

The incubator program, managed by Michelle Andrishak, involves a number of small businesses set up in a building situated in a high traffic area in the centre of main street, Rocky Mountain House.

The 2,200 square-foot building has large windows to provide exposure for the eight offices inside as well as a reception/retail area and a downstairs meeting room.

The building was chosen for its location and because it was a turn-key opportunity.

The incubator model is based on providing space for a variety of businesses and is not targeted to one industry.

Rent is charged at market rate to cover all costs and ensure sustainability.

Tenants, who can remain in the incubator for up to two years, have the opportunity to attend free workshops and seminars related to small businesses.

“The ultimate goal of the incubator is to enhance economic development in the area. The growth and expansion of the businesses while in the incubator has also generated employment growth,” said Andrishak.

While Stratton notes that Rimbey does not qualify for the province’s pilot program, she believes a similar project could be initiated in Rimbey.

“I could certainly see it here. I have talked to the mayor and the town is 100 per cent behind the concept. It certainly would give small businesses the opportunity to test the waters when they are just starting out.”

Stratton said the chamber wouldn’t qualify for provincial funding to get the project off the ground, so would need corporate dollars to launch it.

“We’re going to need assistance at the beginning, but it will eventually become a self-sustaining program.”

For the last decade, Alberta has led Canada in the number of new small businesses created. Small businesses are a vital part of Alberta’s economy, making up 96 per cent of all businesses in the province.

They provide about 37 per cent of all private sector jobs in Alberta and contribute an estimated 29 per cent to Alberta’s gross domestic product.