Located just east of Lethbridge, the Town of Coaldale, Alberta, was originally settled in part to serve the large cattle ranching operations emerging in the region which took advantage of the tall, nutritional native grasses and fertile loam soils. Coaldale in particular served as a pivotal shipping point for the industry in its formative years.
Over the past hundred years, Coaldale has steadily grown due to its strong agricultural roots and close proximity to Lethbridge, the economic hub of the Southern Alberta region. In more recent years, Coaldale has begun to develop its own growing and vibrant business community, combining major investment into downtown redevelopment and industrial land servicing with a competitive tax rate and a commitment to innovative municipal service delivery.
Quality of Life
Today’s Coaldale attracts young, working-age families who have been steadily finding the town is ideally suited to meet their needs because of its friendly atmosphere, low cost of living, and access to employment opportunities. In fact, Coaldale has been recognized for its exceptional quality of life including being named the #8 municipality in Canada (#1 in Western Canada) in which to work from home in 2021 by PC Magazine.
“In recent years, Coaldale has started to attract working age populations because of the significant growth of its business community,” Cameron Mills, Manager of Economic Development & Strategic Initiatives, tells Business Elite Canada. “Investments into industrial land expansion, main street revitalization, and the continued commitment to a low commercial tax rate have made Coaldale the fastest growing commercial center in Southern Alberta over the past five years on a population adjusted basis.”
To support the town’s young population, the Alberta government, in partnership with the Town of Coaldale and Palliser Regional Schools has built a new provincially-funded school. The school’s location is conveniently adjacent to a new indoor recreation facility that would include a soccer field, gymnasium, fitness center, running track, and a variety of other recreational amenities which could jointly serve the broader community as well as the students at the school.
Emerging Small Business
Unlike many Towns of its size, Coaldale’s economy isn’t dominated by a single large employer; rather, Coaldale’s economy is driven by an abundance of emerging small businesses with 1 to 100 employees. With that in mind, a number of businesses have been prospering in Coaldale for years, including Intercontinental Truck Body and GEN Manufacturing both of which have continued to invest in growing their business in Coaldale for more than 40 years.
When asked what he would say to a business owner who is considering opening up in Coaldale, Mills says that the real difference maker in Coaldale in recent years is the Town staff’s approach to serving its business community.
“Town officials take great pride in their organizational culture focused on working together across department lines to support and nurture the business community,” he says. “The Town actively works to analyze its own operations to reduce red tape, and its development team makes itself accessible to the business community well outside of standard office hours. The Town’s flexible, customer-service oriented approach to serving the business community ensures that businesses in Town can spend less time worrying about forms, permits, and regulations and more time focused on doing what they do best; running their business.”
Close proximity to Lethbridge is obviously a major draw for Coaldale, adds Mills. “For years, this allowed for Coaldale to grow in the standard “bedroom community” model. In more recent years, Coaldale has worked to change this dynamic through a variety of initiatives and maintaining a commitment to low commercial taxes; this commitment has meant that for several years now commercial taxes in Coaldale have been less than half those of Lethbridge. As the businesses in the region have become more aware of this (along with Coaldale’s commitment to red tape reduction) they have begun to steadily move to invest in the community; for several years now the rate of non-residential investment in Town has outpaced its still substantial residential growth.”
“These types of investments aren’t the type that generate a lot of excitement in the broader community, but they are incredibly important, especially for our business community,” says Mills, referring to a multi-million-dollar investment in a wastewater facility that will ensure Coaldale and the surrounding region are well positioned to support continued investment in Coaldale’s rapid residential and commercial expansion.
“Wastewater capacity expansion means more opportunity to continue to support the growth of our business community, including emerging industries targeted as part of Coaldale’s membership in Canada’s Premier Food Corridor a regional marketing initiative designed to promote the region and attract foreign direct investment into the value-added agriculture space,” says Mills.
Coaldale’s strategy for attracting investment features a heavy promotion of partnership opportunities. “Coaldale has recognized a number of opportunities to partner with its business community to achieve Town objectives while also providing opportunities to attract investment into the community,” says Mills. “Two recent examples include its Civic Square project and the recently announced construction of the 2Point0 Ltd. Recycling Facility.”
The Civic Square project is a multi-phase project that will leverage private investment to revitalize Main Street Coaldale while also providing the Town with a much needed new Town Office space.
With 2Point0 Ltd., the Town has found an ideal partner to help it manage risk and contain costs in terms of one of its most crucial municipal services; the handling of solid waste, particularly recyclables and organic yard waste. Through an innovative partnership model, the Town is supporting 2Point0 as they invest million of dollars into the construction of a new facility in the Town’s industrial park that will process Blue-bin recycling waste, yard waste, and construction debris waste into a low-carbon fuel product suitable for a number of applications in the private sector, including serving as an important component in the production of concrete in the region.
“This model takes advantage of 2Point0’s innovation and expertise while ensuring a steady supply of inputs to their growing business from the Town,” says Mills. “For Coaldale, the partnership will save the Town tens of thousands of dollars every year against one of the most expensive aspects of virtually all municipal operations; the handling of its residential and commercial waste. It’s a true win-win for both partners and a testament to Coaldale’s approach to seek out new ways of delivering high quality services while keeping costs down—which in turn supports Coaldale’s ability to commit to a competitive tax structure and sustainable municipal operating model.”