BARRHEAD - County of Barrhead councillors hope membership in YOLO (You Only Live Once) Nomads will increase interest in the municipality's Kiel Industrial Park and help attract businesses and workers.
Councillors approved a recommendation from administration during their Nov. 21 meeting to purchase an annual subscription from the international digital marketing company, which specializes in attracting workers and investment to small, rural communities. Initially, the company was founded to help remote workers relocate from the cities to smaller centres.
The subscription, plus the added set-up fee, which includes $1,648 in ad spending and the attracting investor package, is $6,387 for the first year. In subsequent years, the price would drop to $4,395.
Development officer Jenny Bruns said since the pandemic, there has been a trend where people are actively looking to move out of the cities into smaller communities.
"So, now is a great opportunity to market our community to those people [and by enlisting YOLO], we hope to engage a much larger audience," she said.
Services included with the subscription fee covers creating content and targeted marketing campaigns (such as a hub webpage, promotion in their newsletters, running targeted social media ads, blog articles, and personal leads); targeting preferred clients, investors, remote workers, and labour pools.
"They will also conduct quarterly advisor meetings where they go over the analytics, discuss what is working and what may need to be changed," Bruns said.
She added that the county could change, add or subtract features at no cost and use any of the content YOLO creates for other municipal uses.
Bruns suggested that they pay for the subscription using the yet-to-be-budgeted funding left over from when the municipality opted not to renew its GROWTH Alberta membership.
GROWTH Alberta, founded in 2001, is one of nine Regional Economic Development Alliances (REDA) in the province. Their purpose is to create economic growth through marketing. At one time, GROWTH's membership roster was in the teens, but in recent years, that number has dwindled. It has three members: Woodlands County, Swan Hills and Mayerthorpe. Based on its population, the County of Barrhead's annual membership fee was $9,000.
She said one of the big attractions for joining YOLO was the investment package, as interest in the municipality's Kiel Industrial Park had grown stagnant.
The county bought the quarter section of land located at NE 27-59-3-W5, which is immediately south of the Northplex plant on Range Road 32, for $575,000 from the Kiel family in 2012 to create an industrial park. The land is zoned direct control.
Bruns noted that several other municipalities have contracted YOLO's services, including Athabasca County, County of Grande Prairie, County of Two Hills, County of Paintearth, Municipal District of Wainwright, along with the towns or cities of Fox Creek, Grande Cache, Spruce Grove, Vermillion, Vilna, and Wetaskiwin.
"I've spoken with Athabasca and Wetaskiwin, and they are pretty excited and said [YOLO] is a good group to work with," she said, adding that Wetaskiwin especially noticed an increase in the "number of clicks" they are seeing on their webpage and social media platforms.
Currently, the only company to purchase lots at the Kiel Industrial Park is GFR Pharma, the owner of GFR Ingredients, a producer and supplier of plant-based proteins. Its current plant is in Barrhead in the old Northern Alberta Dairy Pool (also known as Nu-Maid Dairies) facility.
At previous council meetings, councillors have voiced concerns over the lack of results of Cushman and Wakefield, which the municipality contracted to market Kiel Industrial Park.
Deputy reeve Marvin Schatz asked if YOLO created the content for the webpage based on what was given to them by the municipalities or if they did all the work.
Bruns said it would be a collaboration. However, she added she was quite impressed with the mockup the company created as a demonstration of what they could do for the county.
Coun. Walter Preugschas asked if they were going to include the Town of Barrhead as part of the project, saying a more regional approach is needed.
County manager Debbie Oyarzun said yes, adding the plan is to include build-out on the county's hamlets, Neerlandia and Manola, as well as the town.
"We'll promote the community. It is something we do with all our promotional tools because you just don't move to the county, but the community," she said. "People want the schools, hospitals, the swimming pool, skateboard park and all the shops and amenities the community as a whole provides."