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Investors have doubled building permit values as busy city rolls out the red carpet
BY JOE RALKO
Moose Jaw has shaken its image as a Prairie railroad hub to become a vibrant city and a great place to do business now and in the future, say civic leaders.
"Moose Jaw is a healthy city with a healthy future," said Mayor Glenn Hagel.
"It is my sense that this second decade of the 21st century will be Moose Jaw's decade."
Saskatchewan's third largest city is located 175 kilometres north of the United States border and 75 kilometres west of Regina in the picturesque valley where the Thunder Creek and Moose Jaw rivers meet.
Building permits in 2009 were a record $91 million, almost double the 2008 level of $54.3 million. Housing prices average $181,173, compared with $166,933 in 2008.
"Moose Jaw is definitely a city on the move," explained Deb Thorn, the founding president and CEO of Temple Gardens Mineral Spa who now works as an economic development professional within the region.
"Moose Jaw has become known as the little city that could. One success leads to another success. Underlying each new success is the refreshing can-do attitude of its people - its leaders, its business stakeholders and its residents, who believed and then took action."
Thorn said an example of the "can-do" attitude is the $61 million multiplex project for which the community raised $12 million to leverage contributions from federal, provincial and municipal funds.
"This facility will act as a catalyst to redevelop and revitalize downtown," Thorn said.
No. 1 ranking
Moose Jaw is a very competitive place to do business, she noted.
The 2008 KPMG Competitive Alternatives Study ranked Moose Jaw No. 1 for cost competitiveness in the North American midwest, fourth in Canada and 12th overall among the 136 cities studied from 10 countries.
Moose Jaw also is among Canada's top entrepreneurial cities, placing fourth according to Communities in Boom, a Financial Post-Canadian Federation of Independent Business report released a year ago. The report examined the performance of cities across the country that provide a positive environment for small-business development.
"Quality of life is a key attraction for new residents to the city. Driving interest is the fact that the city will open its arena, curling and soccer facility along with a new fieldhouse next summer," Thorn said.
"No wonder major housing developments are happening in the city, including the Iron Bridge development, West Park development (Century West), two downtown condo developments, and a seniors' complex called the Grant Hall development."
Derek McRitchie, president of the Moose Jaw Real Estate Board, has seen a steady growth in the marketplace.
"The trend over the last three years has been a steady increase on the average sale price each year," he said. "This increase has been fueled by the high-end product that is being sold especially in 2009 and 2010."
McRitchie said there are two factors that may affect the Moose Jaw market during the upcoming year.
"One is a new downtown condo development, which is beginning construction," he said. "This development will be offering condos starting at $300,000 located within two blocks of Main Street in the downtown."
The other factor that could have a huge impact on the housing market in Moose Jaw is a new housing subdivision now having infrastructure installed.
"Phase 1 of this new subdivision has been almost completely sold out and the developer is looking at beginning Phase 2 immediately," McRitchie said.
"This large supply of pre-sold lots entering the spring market will certainly influence the housing market."
The president of the real estate board is very pleased with city council's actions this year.
"The fact that our current mayor and councillors have made housing an issue will have an immediate as well a long-term affect on the local housing market," he said.
"The newly formed Housing Advisory Committee by the city, which contains many representatives from both public and private interests, is just one of the things the current mayor and council have initiated. With a progressive council, a booming economy and possible manufacturing interests looking at land on the outskirts of Moose Jaw, I feel that 2011 will indeed be an interesting year for our local real estate industry."
The mayor expects the city will be seen as a beehive of economic activity during 2011.
"Thunder Creek Pork [a division of Donald's Fine Foods/Britco Pork] will begin operations within a couple of months, employing 150 to 200 people. The city's new fieldhouse will open within a few weeks. The new downtown arena/rink/convention centre will open next summer," Hagel said.
Moose Jaw is strategically located for industry to reach the North American market through its integrated transportation system. Its location on the Trans-Canada Highway, between Calgary and Winnipeg, provides easy trucking access to Canadian markets and ports serving international markets.
The city is the CP Rail (CPR) Canadian terminus of the Soo Line to Minneapolis and Chicago and home to the largest main-line refuelling facility on CPR's North America network.
The Moose Jaw/Regina corridor is well positioned for industrial development. Yara Belle Plaine Inc. (formerly Saskferco), Mosaic Co., Canadian Salt Co. Ltd. and Terra Grain Fuels operate in the corridor with many of their employees calling Moose Jaw home. Mosaic and Yara have expansions that will bring further employment opportunities to the region.
Little Chicago Developments has received the necessary approvals to proceed to build a new hotel across the street from the downtown facility as the first phase of redeveloping River Street, Hagel said.
In addition, city council has approved a new official community plan, an economic development strategy and is involved in the Moose Jaw/Regina industrial corridor and development of a comprehensive housing business plan, all of which are integrated with each other.
"Finally," Thorn said, " there is a plan in place to do for all sectors what this city has done for the leading tourism sector."
In that vein, Moose Jaw has partnered with Regina in a bid for the 2013 Juno Awards.
"Moose Jaw hasn't lost much of its historic charm, with tourist motor coaches continuing to flock to the city after a decade of building its tourism sector," Thorn explained.
"In 2008, Moose Jaw attracted 439,000 visitors, which are more people than travel to Trinidad and Tobago each year. They pumped $69.6 million into our local economy."
She expects that growth to continue with the Little Chicago development revitalizing River Street and linking into the multiplex, hotel convention facility development - including more storefront commercial downtown.
from Western Investor, December 2010
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