Back in July, Wainwright got the nod for most resilient Alberta town from municipal consultants Smart Towns.
The town of about 6,300 people is hosting a yearly tradition called Taste of Wainwright Friday night, and with the challenges facing rural economies over the last 20 months, has managed to keep long-term debt low and has about $3,000 in available cash for every resident, according to Smart Towns.
Economic Development Officer Carley Herbert has been with the town for 14 years and credits development of the east side as well as work on main street as the base for ongoing progress.
“Everything from Tim Horton’s to Best Western and McDonald’s; all those brand names. During that time, we did a huge mainstreet project as well, to beautify our main street. So we have a really thriving mainstreet and lots of people come to Wainwright to shop in both of those different districts.”
Another takeaway is that even with the COVID pandemic, Herbert noted they don’t have a lot of vacant shop spaces.
She says the town focuses on recreation and has several parks to cater to residents and visitors.
Herbert notes the revenue base of Wainwright comes from energy, agriculture and CFB Wainwright which could add on about 1000-2000 people especially for military exercises or tourists coming to the area.
In 2020 with the COVID restrictions, the military exercises were curtailed and Herbert said this affected businesses that contract work out to the military base. She notes they are grateful to the stability that the base brings to the area.
“The military really gets involved in our community. They live here. They volunteer. They work in our businesses. We are really fortunate to have them. We really love having the military here. They give us that diversity as well, because people come from all over the country and the world.”
Herbert returns to the resiliency of the town as rural communities are facing the COVID economic fallout.
“We were the most [resilient], which is really good for us, especially with this pandemic. We know that funding from the government is most likely going to be harder to get in future years, so we are in a really good fiscal position to keep our taxes low for our residents and to be able to be attractive to businesses looking to move into Wainwright.”
Herbert also noted that Wainwright was surveyed as the Alberta municipality with the lowest cost of living back in 2016 and 2018.