On February 3, representatives from the business community of Kamsack and surrounding area were invited to attend a forum to discuss economic development strategies.
Town councillor, Claire Bishop, organized the event which was held at the Ukrainian Catholic Hall. An industry professional of 30 years, D. James Leier, of Preferred Choice Development Strategists in Saskatoon, travelled to Kamsack to facilitate the forum. A biography on Leier’s website lists expertise in finance, marketing, governance, and performance management in the private sector.
Leier began the two-hour discussion by outlining four distinct goals. Attendees were tasked with: identifying priority areas, determining clear actions, defining who would be responsible for designated activities, and establishing timelines.
The discussion included an analysis of regional demographics that were compared with those of the province. Leier presented an age structure graph that conveyed the social narrative of the population in the Kamsack region, which was similar to that of the province. However, Kamsack showed a less pronounced senior population than other communities in the province and an even further deficit of people in the 25 to 45 age range.
Attendees were encouraged to brainstorm area challenges, and Leier listed them during the discussion. Some of the challenges identified by the group included: business competition from Yorkton, a lack of highly-skilled agricultural labourers, supply chain issues, and poor Internet service in rural areas. Concern was also expressed around current Kamsack businesses that may or may not have succession plans in place, as well as the issue of properties that have remained inactive and/or boarded up in Kamsack’s downtown core.
When tasked with determining Kamsack’s strengths, the group identified local agriculture, the surrounding three First Nations, and the Duck Mountain Provincial Park as top economic drivers. The cost of living, small class sizes, and recreational amenities were also listed as recognized area advantages.
A common theme that emerged from the group was the town’s narrative. Many of those present agreed that the town was suffering from either a general lack of awareness or negative connotations. A consensus quickly formed that managing the narrative of the town would be a priority, and Leier steered the group to determine who would be delegated with the task and under what timeframe.
With the goal of establishing an action plan, Leier encouraged participants to set a 30-day deadline to determine what action would be taken toward addressing the identified priority and who would be responsible. One attendee suggested the Town of Kamsack take responsibility by hiring an independent, third-party group, perhaps from outside the area, to help change the narrative through marketing. The majority of attendees expressed agreement.
Leier emphasized the need for short-term, actionable tasks that could be revisited on a monthly basis. He encouraged the group to track progress made and add new work as goals are met.
Leier will be presenting his assessment at a zoom session later this month to council and all those who attended. Any business interested in hearing the report can contact the town and leave their email.