Business Beat: A Year in Review with Invest Medicine Hat
2020 was a challenging year. In Alberta, the initial shock of the global pandemic was amplified by an oil price war, resulting in an unprecedented recession that hit Alberta especially hard. It was, in the words of Alberta’s finance minister, Travis Toews, a “triple black swan event”. Through it all, Invest Medicine Hat rose to the challenge.
In May, Invest Medicine Hat and City Council worked together to approve the COVID Hat Support Framework, an $8.2 million program including a $2 million grant to support business cope with and recover from the economic impacts of the pandemic. Through 2020, the Medicine Hat Business Innovation Grant provided over $1.2 million in support to 140 applicants.
Invest Medicine Hat also launched two residential incentive programs. The 10/20/30 Residential Lot Program, designed to encourage residential construction of single-detached houses and duplexes in the Greenfield subdivisions of Medicine Hat, and the Residential Infill Incentive Program, designed to incentivize expeditious development and reconstruction of Infill properties. Both programs benefitted established neighborhoods and provided economic stimulus as part of the City’s COVID-19 response.
Counterintuitively, 2020 saw an acceleration of residential land sales, with the average residential price increasing 7% year over year. Invest Medicine Hat managed the sale of a number of city-owned properties, including 96 lots in Saamis Heights to a private developer, all remaining infill lots in the River Flats, and 104 20 Street NE. On the commercial front, the Maple Avenue Fire Hall sale to the Medicine Hat and District Food Bank was finalized, and an option agreement for potential Auto Star expansion occurred.
Acting on recommendations contained within the BREWD Research Report, released in June 2020, IMH joined forces with APEX Alberta, Community Futures Entre Corp and the Medicine Hat and District Chamber of Commerce to launch the ShopHERE Powered by Google initiative, providing free e-commerce websites to local businesses. The same group also partnered to launch a multi-vendor marketplace called Shop YXH, an aggregated site that makes it easy to find, discover and buy local, and gives businesses a competitive advantage online.
Looking forward to 2021, hope is on the horizon. The City and region stand to benefit from continued investment in agricultural processing, clean technology, manufacturing, and professional services. As Western Canada’s low cost business centre, with a highly skilled and available workforce, Medicine Hat stands to benefit from development of the North West Industrial Park alongside continued development downtown and along the waterfront.
About the Author: Jon Sookocheff is the Economic Recovery Officer with Invest Medicine Hat. You can contact Invest through their website or by calling 403.529.8148.