Lots of development potential in Moosomin area
August 18, 2020
The town of Moosomin and RM of Moosomin are placing a focus on economic development, and their economic development officer sees lots of potential for development in the community. The town and RM have a combined economic development committee, and hired Greg Gillespie as economic development officer for the area earlier this year. While Covid-19 has meant his first few months on the job have been different than he envisioned, he says he has learned that there are many potential developments that could be part of the future of the area.
Following is an interview done with Greg by Editor Kevin Weedmark.
After a few months in the job, what do you see as the economic potential in the Moosomin area?
I think a large business, a large manufacturer industry is going to be tough but not out of the question. I think once people are here and understand the community and understand what we had to offer, I think we could attract more people then if they’re looking at us on a map or looking at a website, because we know what we have to offer. We know the quality of life here, the engagement in the community, and what the community has to offer.
If we happen to get an industry that is a feeder industry to one of our main industries, that would be a good fit.
On the large scale industry like the 50, 60 or 70-plus employees, it’s going to be a company that sees Moosomin as the right location because of the industries in the area or because of a personal connection with the area.
On the medium to lower size, I think we have a good opportunity to attract companies here. There are reasons some might want to locate here because of the mining or the manufacturing, to be in close proximity to those industries. We’re in competition with everybody to attract those businesses, and the industries in the area are one of our advantages.
We do have some additional advantages. We are on the number one highway and we do have access to the CP Rail main line, so we do have a transportation advantage over a lot of communities.
I do believe we are seeing new trends that might make a town like Moosomin a potential for certain industries.
First, I believe that the consolidation/globalization trend that has been so dominant for the past 30 years may be reaching its peak.
Covid has generated concern about local food supply. For example greenhouses are a growing industry.
Food traceability is another growing trend. We want to know where our plant and protein based food is originating from. Animal welfare is another significant trend. Whether we’re talking chickens, pigs or beef, there is a growing concern that we don’t put our feedstock animals through too much distress. And one of the biggest distresses for animals is transportation. Some of our beef travels 48 hours to get to its destination. There is legislation under consideration to reduce “time on the truck” to 24 hours. That’s one reason a local abattoir makes sense.
And finally, transportation is expensive. Perhaps not so much at the present time, but once fuel prices start to sky rocket again, there is a business case for smaller, local plants . . . instead of regional, mega plants.
Because of these trends, some industries may be looking at more regional processing.
Do you think there is a lot more room for more home grown businesses like IJACK, which started small and local and built a large plant? Do you think there is a lot of potential for more businesses to grow from the ground up here?
There is as much opportunity here as there is in downtown Regina or anywhere else.
Are there a lot of IJACK companies ready to happen in Moosomin? I don’t know, but when there are, we’ve got to make a connection with those companies and get them to locate here rather than think they need to build in a city when they grow to a certain point.
We’ve done our SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) and we’ve identified our key pluses. Most of them are on the family side of things and I think that’s really our ace in the hole—we’re rural, but we have the vibe of a bigger town.
We’re a great community to raise a family in, but we have more services than a lot of rural towns. We occupy a position better than pure rural and we obviously offer advantages to the city in terms of safety and getting to know your neighbors and feeling part of a community.
Do you think there is room for more businesses that are unique enough that they act as a draw to Moosomin, as a destination business? Cork and Bone is doing a hay ride and steak night, and we have a couple from Estevan and a family from Regina coming to Moosomin to join us for that, just as we have a houseful for the fireworks at Moosomin Lake and for some of the bigger events.
I totally think there is room for a lot more of that. People go to the city for a lot of things, and if some people come out from the city for things in Moosomin, that’s exactly what we want to see. The whole agritourism industry is booming because people are looking for unique experiences, and now with people staying at home, having staycations because of Covid-19, I think there is great opportunity there, to draw people in for experiences.
Cork and Bone, Kari’s Kloset and the Cratehouse are all businesses that have done a real good job of being individual and doing it right and being unique, which brings people to Moosomin.
We’ve had some discussion with another retail business that would really add to our retail sector.
When you have different businesses in town that are all destination type businesses, it really helps all the businesses because people are drawn to town by the destination business but might do other business when they’re here.
When you couple that with the strong health care, with people coming from a large area for health care—which we’re trying to build on with more seniors housing—for professional services, Moosomin starts to look more and more like a real regional centre.
If we can build on the health care with more seniors housing, that becomes its own industry. We already have more seniors than most rural communities, which helps support our local businesses.
With the highway and the strong healthcare, and with these specialty stores that draw people in, I think we can keep the town really vibrant and keep it growing.
Sometimes the focus of economic development is landing the big project, but how much can small individual businesses opening up add to a small community?
You take a small business like the Cratehouse that gives people one more option for something to do, and it makes a difference, it creates a bit more activity around town and it’s one more thing that just adds to the town.
On a Saturday afternoon you can look down the street and see there are cars parked at the Cratehouse—if you have two or three of those, all of a sudden our streets start to look much busier on Saturdays and Sundays.
Cork and Bone draws people in, the Happy Nun down in Forget has built a reputation and it draws people from Regina and it draws people from here. If you do it right, you can draw people in to a smaller community.
Do you think there is potential to develop some businesses around some of the industry that you’ve got in the area?
We’ve got really good development opportunities, because we have those industries in the area and because we have development land available.
We have Eastgate Business Park right in town, and the rural municipality has land to develop just east of town.
That land is close to the highway, there’s good access, it’s highly visible—so we have commercial land ready to develop and it has everything you would want.
How unique is Moosomin in terms of Moosomin having the local economy that it has with agriculture, the potash mines, the oil, the pipelines, a bit of manufacturing in the area and with the highway a little bit more tourism than a lot of towns have? Is it pretty unique do you think?
It is! We’ve looked at other towns and we’ve looked at the stats and the demographics. Most towns have two primary industries and one of them is usually ag and then healthcare is a big on, and we’ve got agriculture, our retail is strong, our healthcare is very strong, and our mines are very, very strong, so we are unique.
There might be one or two other towns in the whole province that sort of have that economic diversity that we have, so it’s a great starting point.
It gives us a leg up on all those other small towns that we might feel like we are competing with as we start to build for the future.
When you talk to somebody about the Moosomin area, what is the main selling point?
It’s a rural community, extremely family friendly, but with more to offer than you think you would get in a typical small town.
Then there’s the recreation. Moosomin has some great recreation right in town, and you have Moosomin Lake, the Qu’Appelle Valley and Kenosee all within a short drive, so you can have a really good quality of life with lots of recreation right around the area.
I think that can be a major draw for a lot of people—the recreation combined with the services you can get in Moosomin compared to a lot of small towns.
Then there’s the strong health care. Our health care draws a lot of people to town, with the doctors and the hospital, and it’s the base we’re building on with more seniors housing.
For some potential businesses, the important thing is the fact that we’re a hub town. We feed into a market of a large area and we’ve got excellent development opportunities and we’ve got incentives to encourage people to build.
Is this a hard time to be doing economic development work, during Covid-19?
It is, but my focus right now is building relationships.
If we can take the time to build relationships and connections and trust when the markets are slow, then we’re that much farther ahead, and when they become vibrant you’re ready to go. If nobody else is doing it because they’re saying it’s a terrible time to do marketing, then you’re that much farther ahead.