Village seeks solutions for business woes

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Limited opportunities for commercial development in Longview have administration and local committees focusing on finding solutions this year.

Chief administrative officer Dale Harrison said the Village currently has only two lots available for commercial development along Highway 22. It’s not a good situation for a village to be in, he said.

“Our highway is our only commercial zoned area – we don’t have a side street,” he said. “We are looking at alternatives.”

Harrison said there is little land available for development in Longview, with the exception of 15 acres that is being sold by a private owner on the east side of the village.

While the Village would like to purchase this land for residential and commercial development, Harrison said it can’t afford six-digit price.

“If the Village was to create lots then the Village would have to buy the land, pay for the area structure plan and then start to service it with sewer and water and then you end up sitting and waiting for somebody to come and buy it,” he said, adding it would cost millions of dollars.

Longview doesn’t have a high demand for development, Harrison said, adding that in the past year only two developers showed interest and the Village was unable to meet their needs.

“We didn’t have land available for commercial and industrial,” he said. “Somebody was looking for a specific size of service land and we didn’t have it.”

The Cowboy Trail draws a lot of traffic through Longview in the summer, but Harrison said many local businesses struggle through the remaining months of the year.

There are 2,990 vehicles daily passing through Longview in the summer, according to Alberta Transportation statistics.

“There isn’t enough local population to support almost any business at 300 people,” he said. “Small retail stores have a tough time competing with the big-box stores.”

The challenge is finding a balance between having enough workers to staff businesses and getting businesses that will survive in a municipality of just over 300 people, he said.

Harrison said Village staff and the economic development committee are working to find ways to address the issue.

“I was asked by my staff the other day what businesses do I see as being viable in Longview,” he said.

“At this point I don’t know. It would be highway traffic and what the highway travellers need. It’s about how do you reinvent yourself.”

Small initiatives can make an impact on drawing people to Longview’s stores, such as the implementation of Light Up last month that had volunteers stringing more than 7,000 feet of lights along buildings, fences and trees along Highway 22.

Harrison said Light Up brought people to Longview just to see the lights, with visitors checking out local stores and a couple spending the night in the Twin Cities Hotel.

One new development project is already in the works for the Village.

Longview Leather owner Don Vincent purchased two lots on the east side of the highway where the car wash used to be, and he plans to expand his leather store, and offer rental opportunities for one or two other businesses.

Longview Leather carries leather, hardware, tools, finishes and machines for leather making and is located on a quarter section of land northeast of the village.

“We built a house and shop on a quarter section northeast of Longview about five years ago as a retirement project,” he said. “It’s just grown so much I don’t have the space. I was looking to rent or build a bigger facility. There is a lot of tourist traffic on the highway and I thought it would be a great location.”

He plans to rent out 2,000 square feet of the building to one or two other businesses.

With no rentals available, Vincent is having plans drawn up for a 7,000-square-foot building, with Longview Leather expected to take up about 5,000 square feet.

There are currently no other locations for businesses to rent in the village.

“We bought more property than we are going to utilize,” he said. “We bought two commercial lots so we may expand it next year or the year after.”

Vincent said he expects construction to begin in March and Longview Leather’s new location to open in the fall.

“It will be good for the community,” he said, adding he moved to Longview for the quiet atmosphere. “A lot of businesses in Alberta come out here and buy their leather.”

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