Have it All

City of Cranbrook

Cranbrook, British Columbia has it all. The community of 20,000 enjoys an ideal location in the middle of the broad Rocky Mountain Trench as well as all the benefits of being a regional economic centre.

“We have pretty much got the perfect balance here,” says Cranbrook’s Business and Economic Development Manager Kevin Weaver. “Cranbrook offers the best of both worlds. You’ve got a small town feel, but at the same time you’ve got the big city services. So we offer not only the quality of life, but also the business opportunities.”

Furthermore, Cranbrook is as an authentic Rocky Mountain community where people are happy to settle and spend their entire lives. “We’ve got the Rocky Mountain lifestyle here, but we are not in a resort community,” Mr. Weaver explains. “This is a real mountain community. It is not artificial.”

The community’s amenities are on par with those of much larger cities, from a professional symphony and a large shopping district to dozens of golf courses and a WHL hockey team. The College of the Rockies and the Cranbrook Regional Hospital provide ample employment as well as opportunity, and the local small-business sector is thriving.

And, of course, there is the natural beauty that only a Rocky Mountain location can bring. “In the morning we’ve got the sunrise over Fisher Peak and the Steeples mountain range,” Mr. Weaver points out. “And the sun sets in the evening over the Purcell Mountains in the west.” Nestled among some of the most stunning landscape imaginable, Cranbrook is a prime destination for nature lovers.

Tourists attracted to Cranbrook’s dramatic scenery are also eager to see the region’s abundant wildlife. “This area is actually referred to as the Serengeti of the North,” Mr. Weaver reports. Many species of large animals roam the region, including big horn sheep, caribou, and grizzly bears. Adventure travelers also flock to Cranbrook’s many outdoor recreational opportunities, including mountain biking, horseback riding, hiking, caving, rock climbing, ziplining, and skiing.

Cranbrook also boasts some major historical sites. Fort Steel, a ghost town dating back to 1864, has over 60 buildings to explore, as well as wagon tours, steam train rides, gold panning, live theatre, various demonstrations and museum displays. The site is considered one of the most important heritage attractions in British Columbia and draws visitors from around the world.

Meanwhile, Cranbrook’s Canadian Museum of Rail Travel showcases the luxurious vintage railcars of a bygone era. “They have a complete set of rail cars from the TransCanada limited,” Mr. Weaver shares. This train, he says, “was CT’s version of the Orient Express.” The nearby historic Baker District is also a popular destination, as well as the site of a self-guided Cranbrook Heritage Walking Tour.

Cranbrook’s central location makes it an ideal place for tourists to stay while exploring all that the region has to offer. “They use Cranbrook as a base camp to take it all in,” Mr. Weaver explains. The city’s location also makes it a regional hub for business. “We are in the heart of the Rockies, but within four hours we’ve got a regional market base of 2 million.”

Moreover, the region boasts the transportation needed for Cranbrook to take full advantage of this market base. “We’ve got rail; we’ve got great highway access. We’ve got two ports of entry into the States only 45 minutes from Cranbrook.” The Cranbrook / Canadian Rockies International Airport offers direct flights to major airports around the world, and Highway 3 also runs through the town. “About 1.3 million vehicles pass through Cranbrook every year,” Mr. Weaver reports. “This stretch of highway is one of the busiest stretches of highway in the province.”

The city used to rely primarily on the resource industry, but “over the last fifteen years there was a concerted effort to diversify the economy,” explains Mr. Weaver. This shift was achieved by taking greater advantage of Cranbrook’s location and its ability to meet the needs of the surrounding region. As the largest city in southeastern British Columbia, “we are able to offer the services that businesses require.”

The city’s diversification strategy has been remarkably successful. It has also brought about a dramatic increase in the workforce’s educational and skill level, which “indicates a change in the overall direction of Cranbrook,” Mr. Weaver points out. “In five years [there has been] a 41.9 percent increase in university degrees. Almost two thirds of our labour force has post-secondary degrees or educational accreditation. This is a huge growth in numbers for us in terms of our labour force becoming a skilled labour force.”

While opportunities in Cranbrook are growing steadily, Mr. Weaver says that the city has remained small enough to offer residents a coveted, laid back lifestyle. “Cranbrook is the perfect size community,” he believes. “We have all the amenities; we have what business needs to succeed.” The community’s size is particularly ideal for start-ups. “Cranbrook is big enough for entrepreneurs to build for the future, but small enough that they want to stay here for the lifestyle. They can grow a successful business, but they still are able to enjoy their community and the lifestyle that is available.”

It is no wonder Cranbrook is bursting at the seams with entrepreneurs eager to take advantage of all the city has to offer. “What we are seeing now is that people who moved here for lifestyle choices can actually pick up with their business and succeed with their business here,” Mr. Weaver remarks. Successful Cranbrook businesses cover a wide variety of sectors, from food and beverage to textiles and technology.

Ascendant Technology Group, for example, has a booming business supplying major clients like NATO and the United States Department of Homeland Security with innovative surveillance systems. Mrs. Palmer’s Pantry’s oven baked Pita chips have been equally successful. “Turns out they are a favorite of President Obama and are featured on Air Force One as a snack food,” Mr. Weaver says. Kootenay Knitting Company had the honor of being an Official Licensee of headwear, scarves and sweaters for the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver. And, Mr. Weaver adds, the number of notable Cranbrook start-ups continues to increase. “It is almost like entrepreneurism generates more entrepreneurism,” he points out. “It just builds upon itself. You get that first group of entrepreneurs and it generates the desire for more entrepreneurs to locate here.”

In addition, even though Cranbrook’s economy has diversified, the region’s traditional resource sector still holds significant opportunities. “We have the second largest metallurgical coal deposit in the world,” Mr. Weaver points out. Metallurgical coal, which is used in the steelmaking process, is in very high demand, particularly in Asia, and business is brisk. “I’ve been over to China and Korea three times in the past two years,” says Mr. Weaver, while Chinese buyers are also regular visitors to Cranbrook. “They are using Cranbrook as their hub to access the resource sectors.”

Asian markets are also seeking the region’s forest products. “We are really seeing a resurgence in our forest sector,” Mr. Weaver reports. “But not just for the traditional commodity grade; they are now starting to look at things like bio energy for export purposes.” In the past, nearly 75 percent of the region’s forest products went to the United States. Now, however, Asia has become the primary buyer, with only about 40 percent going to America. The increased overseas interest has been a boon to the sector. “That is really helping to stabilize the economy and grow the resource sector,” Mr. Weaver says. A strong resource sector also creates jobs in many supporting industries. “A lot of the support for the coal fields comes from Cranbrook,” Mr. Weaver points out. “Our location is so important.”

Manufacturing and technology are two sectors that hold particular potential for the near future. “That is an area we are going to be putting some significant effort in over the next few years,” Mr. Weaver reports. “We want to make sure that the manufacturing sector and the innovation and technology sectors are going to have the services that they require to succeed.” The city is also developing a 70 hectare industrial park beside the airport, which will allow Cranbrook’s industrial sectors to continue their strong growth.

Ideally located in the pristine beauty of the Rocky Mountains, Cranbrook is surrounded by a wealth of natural resources as well as entrepreneurial possibilities. With so much to offer, the city is sure to continue attracting people seeking that rare combination of great opportunity alongside a great lifestyle.

For more information about City of Cranbrook, please visit http://www.cranbrook.ca

June 24, 2018, 2:52 AM EDT

A Proactive Approach to Resolving a Longstanding Debate

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