I wish to share with you a story of my hometown. I was born and raised in northwestern Alberta in a small town northwest of Edmonton. It is a nice little town, with about 5,000 population in the total service area. I moved away in 1987. It was a bustling little centre at that time, where you could get pretty much everything you needed with rare exceptions. It had two grocery stores, three car dealerships, a very active volunteer fire department, great little hospital, an agricultural college, lots of farming, and a very nice community spirit—many similarities to Creston aside from the climate, and the far-ranging economic boom and bust cycles that small towns with many of its people involved in the oil industry will go through.
We were within driving distance of Grande Prairie (population back then 18,000; now 63,000) and so if we needed something that we could not get in town, a trip to Grande Prairie was like a trip to Cranbrook. Being very isolated, a trip to “the city” (Edmonton) was not uncommon. Back then, traveling an hour or more to shop was not an everyday occurrence. It was more like going to a special event that happened once in a while.
Personal Observation: it felt as if many businesses in Fairview took advantage of this fact, and would often charge prices significantly higher than what we would pay in Grande Prairie. Many of us would gripe about that.
While visiting this past summer, it was disappointing to see what was happening to my old hometown. Vacant buildings and vacant land (or parking lots) where there used to be buildings seemed more common than open shops. The town is now down to one grocery store. Almost everyone now does a majority of their shopping in Grande Prairie, or even in a closer community (50 miles away) with its Walmart and big box stores.
My hometown has become an oil services town where I would estimate residents spend much more of their shopping money outside of town than inside. The population has shrunk by 10% since 2006.
There are two morals to this true story.
1) Our own businesses need to be competitive. No secret here. Online shopping has changed the game, and we are close to the border. Those are difficult obstacles to face. But, if we provide excellent, knowledgeable and friendly service that is competitively priced, Creston residents will support their own.
2) As consumers, the ability to enjoy this beautiful little valley is contingent upon our ability to purchase goods here. If we don’t support our local businesses, we will lose them. They are a vibrant part of our economy. Our business owners also volunteer in many ways and pay their taxes. What if our tax base shrunk by 10% like my old hometown? The result would not be good, and each of us would have to pick up the slack in lost tax revenue.
Visiting my old hometown as it is now was painful. I don’t want to see my new hometown suffer the same fate. Shopping locally and helping our local businesses will benefit us all. Let’s do it Creston!
Submitted by Vern Gorham, Manager at the Creston Valley Chamber of Commerce