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Region anticipates bold re-branding strategy for 2020

PHOTO. Wood Buffalo Economic Development Corporation CEO Kevin Weidlich speaking with members of RMWB Council back in Nov. 26, 2019. MYMCMURRAY/Phil Wood.

Wood Buffalo’s Economic Development team (WBEDC) is expecting big things in the new year.

CEO Kevin Weidlich presented the corporation’s third-quarter results, which are within budget, to the Mayor and Councillors on Nov. 26, 2019.

He also outlined the key priorities for the WBEDC in 2020: A rebranding strategy, retail business attraction, conventions and sports tournaments, and Startup YMM.

Mayor Don Scott said the rebranding will be quite ambitious.

“We all live here and we know how great it is, but let’s make sure the rest of Canada and everybody else understands it implicitly.”

Weidlich also addressed the ‘leakage’ of millions in retail dollars driving south for spending in large markets of Edmonton and Calgary.

Therefore, promoting local and Indigenous retail partners and attracting more business to the region is key.

He added he expects announcements from two or three large-scale business retailers next year.

Ambitious plan

In 10 months, our region generated $13.5-million in economic impact with a return on investment of 6:1.

That number comes from new business, visitors, and businesses outside of Wood Buffalo spending their dollars here.

The “Shop Local” program enables WBEDC to do its work promoting our region to national and international markets, says Mayor Scott.

“Please shop in this region. It is absolutely crucial to the success of all the businesses in this region. We want to see more people shopping here at every opportunity, and we want to see more people flying out of our airport as well.”

Speaking of the airport, Weidlich said he is confident the Fort McMurray International Airport will secure international access.

Another goal of WBEDC is for Fort McMurray to host 52 meetings, conventions, and sports tournaments next year.

Weidlich mentioned an upcoming convention in June called ’55 North’.

This event features 200 CEOs meeting to discuss doing business in Wood Buffalo.

Moving forward

Finally, Startup YMM is a resource available to Wood Buffalo entrepreneurs and new businesses.

It may also include an investment fund, equipment rental opportunities, or meeting spaces for small to medium-sized gatherings.

Weidlich said it’s his team’s goal to connect them to regional and international markets and reinvigorate past opportunities that disconnected.

Councillors recalled old “Northern Lights” tourism packages, for example.

Buses would drive tourists for multiple nights stays in Fort McKay and Moose Lake to view the northern lights.

Mayor Don Scott encourages residents to get in touch with the Economic Development team with ideas or if they know organizations wanting to meet here.

“It’s really exciting going forward. It’s something that this Council has taken very seriously; every chance we’ve had [in] Quebec [and] Ottawa we were telling everybody how great our region is, we want them to come [and] visit us, and we’ve created many, many ambassadors.”

He adds events like Rogers Hometown Hockey on Nov. 23-24, 2019, displayed civic pride and community spirit for the whole nation to see.