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Tuesday, 04 October 2016 08:00

Southwest Alta. village gets marketing help from college

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The Village of Glenwood is dependent on Saputo's powdered milk factory. A study was done and recommendations were made in order to help bolster and maintain future self sufficiency. The Village of Glenwood is dependent on Saputo's powdered milk factory. A study was done and recommendations were made in order to help bolster and maintain future self sufficiency. Photo by Pat Potter

When Medicine Hat College business administration student Beth Lewis saw the opportunity posted for a business student to take part in a pilot project to help develop a “community-based marketing strategy” during this past summer, she jumped at the opportunity.

The relationship between the Hanna native and incoming president of the college’s students’ union and the Village of Glenwood and Glenwood and District Economic Development Society turned out to be mutually beneficial.
“It was a great decision to do the project. It's been very educational and learned so much. It was definitely something I was interested in,” explains Lewis of the opportunity. “Coming from a rural lifestyle and that type of mentality — I understand how a small town is and how Glenwood works.”
The village is a 40-minute drive from Waterton Lakes National park and is 35 km northwest of Cardston just off of secondary Highway 505. According to the 2015 census, 287 residents call the village home.
The pilot project, which took funding provided from JMH and Co. as well as partnering with the Alberta Rural Development Network (ARDN), allowed Lewis to spend time in Glenwood.
She spent time touring, surveying, researching and gathering opinions on the best plan for Glenwood in terms of marketing itself.
The ARDN works in collaboration with the Government of Alberta with its purpose to support the Rural Development Strategy and receives funding from the Rural Alberta Development Fund.
The ARDN’s mandate is that it “will use the combined expertise of Alberta’s post-secondary institutions to support rural development in Alberta and help rural communities grow through learning.”
Lewis’ study not only included how to attract tourists to the picturesque village to take advantage of the area, but also options to increase economic activity in the event the village needed to attract new business if Saputo unexpectedly decided to shut down again.
“Initially for research, I surveyed tourists and residents about what they thought was needed and I got a good feel for Glenwood,” she explains.
“I surveyed about 100 Waterton tourists. It took me about four to six hours to do a short survey. It was easier, as a lot of those people travelled in groups so it didn’t take long to do.
“The economic development aspect was completely new to me and what it takes to sustain a village,” adds Lewis who found economic development was needed.
“This powdered milk factory is what keeps the school going for both students and employment.
What’s going to happen if they close it down again? What measurements are going into place to make sure the village is able to survive.”
In order to formulate some ideas which she was to present to the five-member village council and the Economic Development Society earlier this week (Aug. 29-30), Lewis made contact with 40 communities from across the prairies.
For the most part, she conducted phone interviews on what kind of industries were in those communities and their sustainability.
If verbal interviews weren’t possible, she was able to take information from websites in a few cases.
According to the community’s website, there are 50 businesses in the village. That is including the Village of Glenwood. The obvious economic driver is the Saputo Food Ltd.’s steam plant on Main Street which evaporates milk into powder.
Tourism-wise, the Pioneer Ice Cream Parlour and Cheese Factory Museum (as the Saputo plant was a major cheese producer for Armstrong brand) are the big tourist attractions to coincide with its proximity to the Rocky Mountains which provide a beautiful backdrop for the community.
Lewis didn’t know much about Glenwood. Initially, the task at hand was to develop a community-based marketing strategy for the village.
The town’s main industry is Saputo. Initially Glenwood had a cheese-making factory, but Saputo officials decided to shut it down in the spring of 2014.
Lewis says the residents went to the company and said the company’s move would destroy the village.
 In November of 2014, the decision was altered and it was decided the factory would be turned into a powdered milk processor.
This powdered milk is exported as food aid to countries facing poverty and famines.
Based on her findings, Lewis will create two marketing plans.
One looks solely at industry and the other tourism.
They will hopefully turn into sustainability strategies for the community.
For Lewis, the experience of going to Glenwood was worthwhile.
“It was a confidence booster; you can’t get that kind of experience in a classroom,” she explains.
“It’s been phenomenal; it helped me decide what I wanted to do upon graduation. It’s opening a lot more doors for me through my contacts and (work experience).”
Lewis is the incoming-president of the Medicine Hat College’s Student Association taking over from Landon Heilman. In the late spring of this year, the two were nominated for the City of Medicine Hat’s Leaders of Tomorrow program.
Her time in Medicine Hat has been beneficial in many respects.
“I am from a small community so I wanted something where the transition was going to be easier to a smaller centre (and campus), yet I was still going to get what I needed,” explains Lewis who didn’t want to compromise her education either.
“The instructors here are phenomenal — better than I could’ve hoped for and expected...”

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Ryan Dahlman

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