News and Events

Small communities receive big boost from student projects

July 20, 2017

Several Medicine Hat College (MHC) students have the opportunity to work in the real world this summer, getting hands-on experience that they can take back to the classroom in the fall, and build on as they begin their careers. In some cases, Alberta communities are benefiting directly from their work which focuses on business investment and tourism strategies.

Business student Beth Lewis spent time in Glenwood, Alberta last summer developing a marketing plan for the southwest rural community and returned this spring to continue her work on the second phase of the project.

“Doing a project like this in the real world instead of as a case study in class is a great experience. I expected last year to be mostly a marketing project, but there was economic development as well,” says Lewis. “I hope the plans we’ve pulled together help the town, and I’m thankful for the chance to work hand-on with this project.”

Her experience has also prepared her to mentor fellow business student, Jordan Pomrenke, who launched a similar project in Redcliff in May.

“There are similarities, for sure, between the two projects, but each community has its own opportunities that you get to work through, so it’s the same and different all at once,” adds Lewis.

Pomrenke, who is continuing with his Bachelor of Business Administration this fall, is well into his summer work-term and looking forward to presenting his findings to Redcliff town council and the community in late August. “The project started with an analysis of what the town currently has and conducting surveys of residents and businesses, as well as interviews with key community members.”

The end result for Pomrenke’s project will be to provide a report that outlines business prospects that could succeed in the town as well as the viability of several tourism opportunities. With the final report in hand, the Town of Redcliff may explore having someone flesh out full business plans for some of the options that will be identified.

This work is part of an ongoing project made possible by partners such as the Alberta Rural Development Network (ARDN), the Economic Development Alliance of Southeast Alberta (EDA) and Medicine Hat College in an effort to revitalize rural communities in Alberta and help them survive in the current economy.

“Small towns are a vital part of the fabric of Alberta and there are a lot of factors affecting their viability,” says Theresa Hardiker, executive director of the EDA. “Through the projects Beth and Jordan are doing, as well as others, we are able to look at individual communities and work with them to create a plan that makes sense for them. We hope to continue this kind of work in additional communities in the years to come.”

Lewis and Pomrenke’s projects are partially financed through the Summer Temporary Employment Program (STEP), funded by the provincial government, and JMH & CO. Miranda Davies, business instructor at MHC, has overseen both projects and hopes the initiative can continue in years to come.

Pomrenke is excited about the chance to help the community’s sustainability and growth. “I see some of the challenges they are facing and it’s exciting that maybe I could help them address some of those challenges. I’m from a small town myself and interested in entrepreneurship after my degree, so it’s been great working through how to identify opportunities in a community like Redcliff and mold that into an opportunity for the town, a business operator and the town’s people.”

Davies and Pomrenke will present their final report on the business investment and tourism strategy for the Town of Redcliff to town council and the community on Tuesday, Aug. 22 from 8 - 9:30 a.m., 12 – 1:30 p.m. and 4 – 5:30 p.m. at Redcliff Town Hall.