A large grant aims to improve the economic development of the multicultural business district along 17th Avenue S.E.
Calgary’s International Avenue has developed into a burgeoning marketplace in recent years and a grant from the provincial government will help the area grow even more.
A $300,000 grant from the Community and Regional Economic Support program to the International Avenue Business Revitalization Zone, located along 17th Avenue S.E., will go toward Phase 3 of the Heart of the New East Community Economic Development Project, which will establish a comprehensive community economic development strategy, develop a promotional image campaign, enhance the Emerge summer market and expand the social innovation co-working hub.
Alison Karim-McSwiney, executive director of the International Avenue BRZ, says the association has been researching ethnic entrepreneurs in the greater Forest Lawn area and the majority of businesses on the street have been in operation for more than 10 years.
Karim-McSwiney says the goal of the research was to find out essentially what people liked about the area, what it could do to improve the area, what were some of the stumbling blocks for people starting businesses, and how the BRZ could help them grow their business or start one.
The multicultural business district, which is about 35 blocks and just over four kilometres, has about 425 businesses with a wide range of retailers, restaurants and grocery stores.
According to Karim-McSwiney, there are almost 1,000 businesses operating in the greater Forest Lawn area.
“One thing that was extremely interesting to us is we found there were a number of home-based businesses that were operating in the area as well,” she said, adding that the BRZ is hoping to help some of them grow out of their homes.
Phase 3 from the Alberta government will allow us to continue to incubate new businesses. To have a co-working space and innovation hub that entrepreneurs, artists, makers, people in the area, can access.
“Phase 3 from the Alberta government will allow us to continue to incubate new businesses. To have a co-working space and innovation hub that entrepreneurs, artists, makers, people in the area, can access,” said Karim-McSwiney. “We wanted a place where they essentially can connect and help each other. That’s really what the main amount of the money is for. We will continue to create more businesses. In turn, it will raise the economy in the area.”
The first two phases of International Avenue’s economic development project were funded in part by the City of Calgary and included research and the test incubation of small businesses. The third phase will align with the forthcoming infrastructure upgrade planned in the area.
One of the unique things the BRZ did last year was turn a shipping container into two retail bays where people could launch a storefront business. Out of six businesses, two went on to launch as a full-time enterprise. The concept will be run again this year from mid-June to September.
In a recent statement, Deron Bilous, Alberta Minister of Economic Development and Trade noted that the energy, agriculture, forestry, mining, and tourism industries all contribute to Alberta’s way of life.
“Last year, we launched the two-year CARES program to help communities with common interests, but limited resources, tackle economic development projects that they might not be able to on their own. Through these projects, local leaders are working together to grow and diversify our economy.”