Courtesy CrossIron Mills

Named after the French novelist and playwright Honore de Balzac, the tiny hamlet of Balzac, located just north of Calgary, is so small that its population doesn’t even crack double digits. However, it packs a wallop when it comes to commercial development.

In fact, no one actually lives in the hamlet of Balzac, but the area represents one of Rocky View County’s main commercial and industrial areas.

“For 10 years, Rocky View County has been pursuing a strategy to attract business and commercial development to the east Balzac area, with great success,” said Grant Kaiser, director of marketing and communications for Rocky View County.

Thousands of new workers are set to make the community their work-day home with the opening of the online commerce giant Amazon’s new 600,000-square-foot distribution centre in the business commercial district of Balzac.

“The area has outstanding access to road, rail and air transport, and is very attractive to the kinds of businesses that need land.” – Grant Kaiser, Rocky View County

The new Amazon facility joins a string of others, including Walmart’s 400,000-square-foot distribution and production facility, CrossIron Mills outlet mall, and the New Horizon Mall, touted as an international shopping mecca. The area is also home to the Century Downs Racetrack and Casino.

“The area has outstanding access to road, rail and air transport, and is very attractive to the kinds of businesses that need land,” said Kaiser.

A ’50s-style diner, a gas station, a community centre and a few other small businesses make up the hamlet to the west of Highway 2 at the intersection of Highway 566.

Rocky View County, an area that extends across 4,000 km2, has a total population of just under 40,000 people according to Canada’s 2016 census.

“There are rural farmlands around the Balzac area with residents, but we have no census information on them, since the numbers are too small,” said Kaiser.

Going forward, however, that number is expected to rise.

Kaiser says there are long-terms plans for the area that include commercial, industrial and residential development.

For now, though, the area doesn’t have a servicing strategy for water and wastewater, and so it is not currently under active development, remaining largely farmland.

If you want to peek into the area’s culture, visit on Groundhog Day, when Balzac Billy – a groundhog mascot created by the local business association – pops his head out to determine if winter is done.