A plan has been put forward to create a Maple Creek Business Centre, providing a modern, well-equipped office environment for people needing a workplace.
One possible location is the old fire hall, now considered redundant space in the Town Hall complex.
The centre would be designed for remote workers, young entrepreneurs, home-based businesses, contractors and consultants, and students.
Among proposed services are fibre optics, digital conferencing, and a Zoom-fitted 10-seat board room.
It is estimated it will cost $200,000 to develop the site, covering heating, electrical, glass, furnishings, carpets, electronics and other equipment. Estimated monthly income for the first year – assuming a 50 per cent uptake – will be $9,600, with monthly expenses totalling $4,600.
The idea is that by year two the facility will be self-supporting.
The driving force behind the venture is Tina Cresswell, president of the Maple Creek Chamber of Commerce and a leading figure on the Cypress Hills-Grasslands Destination Area.
She presented a preliminary plan at the May 25 Town Council meeting.
With her was Brad Drever, managing director at Skandacor, who expressed support for the proposal.
Cresswell said the concept of the workplace was rapidly evolving, providing an opportunity for Maple Creek; the COVID-19 pandemic had accelerated the trend for remote working.
“Leadership, including expectations of leaders and those they lead, has changed. The way we work and what we value have changed.
“We are looking at a revolution in the workplace.
“The challenge of isolation has brought on a great need for fellowship, for community, for co-work and play. But the cachet of working in a big downtown office building in a big city has lost its lustre for many.
“Small towns, with their quiet life, close relationships and abundance of nature, hold a great attraction for many people searching for more meaningful connections with family, friends and community.”
Cresswell said that during the last 14 months, and even before, the Chamber of Commerce had been looking for motivating projects and activities beyond a couple of events a year and a health insurance program for members.
“Norm Fiss (funeral director/embalmer and owner of Binkley’s Funeral Service) began the move to more relevance by taking the lead in collaborating with the Town and the RM to attract helium operations to Maple Creek.”
She said she started talking with Gillian Moch, economic development officer, about a co-work centre to provide services for people who work from home in already established businesses.
Cresswell said she took the idea to a monthly meeting and Brad Drever was on the Zoom call.
“We talked about a high school program, a young entrepreneurs program, services for remote workers, mail and parcel pick-up, telephone answering, meeting spaces, and the list goes on. We got to work.”
Cresswell said research had been carried out into services, layout and market potential. A workable development budget had been put together, along with a draft monthly profit and loss statement.
“One of the most important elements of this project is its demonstration for Maple Creek as a town open to business opportunities and new ways of forging relationships with business, organizations and government.
“We have the opportunity to lead the way, as we have so often, but the Town doesn’t have to bear the responsibility of overseeing the project. That falls to the Chamber who, as a non-profit organization, has access to a great deal of support, particularly post-COVID.
“The Chamber of Commerce asks for your agreement in principle to this project, so the Chamber and the Town can move forward together to take up the opportunities of this new reality.”
Cresswell said the old fire hall would be a good starting place for the business centre, at no cost to the Town. She pointed out that it demand for a centre meant a bigger location was needed, then the Town would be left with a fully fitted, heated and insulated area now deemed redundant space.
Drever said that as a business owner he was happy to support the Chamber.
“I see a huge need in this town,” he said. “For any town of our size we need to have a vision for how we can continue to keep our young people, keep our developed entrepreneurial spirit within our upcoming generation … they are going to be the ones to carry this town forward.”
Drever said there was huge potential for Maple Creek. The challenge was to bring people to town to support existing businesses, and to help entrepreneurs who want to get into business or take their operation from a home office environment to a commercial workplace environment.
The proposed business centre, he added, would upgrade the vibrancy of the town.
“We feel this space would be attractive space to work in and utilize the open-style office environment which is what the new generation want.”
He continued: “It would be a huge boost to the business community in Maple Creek and also bring in persons who want to come and visit Maple Creek, make a vacation here and do business.”
Drever asked: “What is there that would make the Council want to buy into this idea?”
On behalf of the Council, Michelle McKenzie, the Mayor, thanked Cresswell and Drever for their presentation. She said the Council would get back to them.