Creating a new narrative for Canal Flats

Economic development consultant hired, lists vision for next 90 days

The groundwork has been laid for an economic development plan in Canal Flats.

Canal Flats Council is taking time to do an in-depth assessment of the village’s possibilities, through the help of an economic development consultant. Council hired Chris Fields last year to develop an economic development tactical plan. He came to Council Monday, June 26 to outline his first suggested steps for the community in the next 90 days.

“The future will not look like the past in Canal Flats,” said Fields, speaking to Council in his presentation.

He essentially said two things need to happen in the first 90 days of the action plan: to communicate the vision and achieve buy-in for it. He proposed doing so in part through a community forum. Finding the community’s sense of vision and direction – he suggested the goal of finding 80 per cent agreement on the overall vision – and “getting in the boat and rowing together.”

Day one to 90 is about telling the story, changing the conversation from the past of Canal Flats to the future, he explained in his proposal.

“The first 90 days will be to make the strategy more well-known.”

Fields has done this line of work in many other communities over the past 15 years and says he has watched the seeds of something created start to blossom even three to five years afterwards.

“It is not going to happen in two weeks, two months or even two years,” he said, equating change to a snowball making its way down the hill. It will take time to grow and gain momentum. He commented that “repositioning a community” that has been one way for 100 years is not an easy task.

However, while it will be a challenge, Fields emphasized,“To do nothing is not an option.”

Aside from a community forum, Fields brought up the need to have branded wayfinding signage, refresh the Canal Flats visual identity and build a new website with strong positioning of a Canal Fats vision. The community needs to create a positive, forward-feeling impression to encourage people to move to the Flats.

He also said in any community, the key is to start identifying two to three things the area is “exceptionally good” at: Canal Flats does not need to be everything to everybody. He pointed to specific target groups such as families looking for affordable housing as a great place to start, the arena people travel to use and the large industrial region as some assets.

Fields told Council he is available to work for the community on a longer-term basis to help get the plan rolling.

“My job is to try and kick your community forward, for tangible things you can see.”

Two councilors asked clarifying questions of Fields, but no further discussion took place during the regular Council meeting regarding Field’s presentation.

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