Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Trevor Birkmann talks business with Town Council

Justine Jorgensen

On Monday August 26, citizen Trevor Birkmann appeared before Pincher Creek's Town Council as a delegation in order to discuss business in Pincher Creek. Birkmann is a former member of Council.  He said he recently he toured the town and became aware of a growing issue. "I noticed... changes in the business atmosphere in Pincher Creek," he explained. "I want to highlight a couple of those changes and give you maybe an idea that I have of where I think maybe we're missing the advantage here." Birkmann mentioned noticing businesses pulling out of town, and wondered about plans to stop future closures. "What is the town's plan going forward?"

One recent loss of a business Birkmann referenced is that of Sobeys, which closed its doors this summer. "I realize it's not the Council's responsibility- no one could stop Sobeys from going the direction it went. But it's a big empty building on our Main Street. We got several." He proposed the Council reach out to discover a solution. "We have tons of different committees," he said. "Where's the business committee? Where's the committee that says, 'Hey put the brakes on, folks.' It's time to go to meet the business owners that pay license in this town and do some kind of a statistic study and say 'Are you growing? Are you slowing? And what can we do to help?'."

"I'm here today to suggest that you build a committee that makes sense. Not that the others don't. This one should be a priority first," he said. "I really, really get goosebumps when I see the businesses that are walking away. And you take a person like me who really wants to invest in this community by means of buying houses, or donating, whatever you're doing... you take a step back. And I see that, a lot more people are taking a step back." Birkmann's essential proposed plan of action would be for the Council to form a committee, conduct a survey with the businesses in Pincher Creek, and explore ways the town can help. "Is the Council ready to get their hands dirty in this, and go down to the businesses and say 'We're here.'"

In response to Birkmann, the Council explained that there has been some action in regards to Pincher Creek's economy, one example being a "business needs assessment" survey done a couple years back. It was explained that "these are issues that the Economic Development Committee does discuss." Mayor Don Anderberg mentioned to Birkmann there have been quite a few contacts around town to see where people are at. "There's some issues out there, but on the other side of the coin, there's some people who are doing really well. Extremely well," Anderberg explained. "A lot of people I deal with are really happy with the way things are going. But there's some concerns out there, and I agree with you. I think we're trying to be very proactive here to make a few things happen here."

Anderberg went on to say the Council has been working hard on the Housing Committee. He explained that much of the difficulty of hiring workers in Pincher Creek results from a shortage of housing options. "One of the problems with keeping businesses, or bringing in new ones, people need places to stay." This is one of the ways the Council is working on maintaining stable business in the town. "We're aware of the situation," Anderberg said.

Birkmann thanked the Council for their time in conclusion to the discussion. In regards to further action by the Council on businesses in Pincher Creek, Anderberg stated "Hopefully we're going to pull some money out of reserves to make this thing happen sooner than later."

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