I have had a chance to travel lately throughout Saskatchewan for work, and I can now say that I have seen more of this province since January than the last 20+ years living here.
I am a sucker for new roads, and often take the long route. This comes from many road trips with my father. Him and his duMauriers and me and my rootbeer, usually with my shih tzu dog on my lap. Any road trip was a chance to teach me something, whether it was the difference between white spruce and jack pine or all the “Item of Interests” along the way, and the compulsory stop to read the plaque.
I’ve driven more than 6,000 kilometres in the past four months, and while you might scoff at that, that is a low estimate. But that’s here nor there, where I’m leading you to is one of the most up-and-coming towns in Saskatchewan, which I recently discovered.
I’ve been through several towns now that I’m slightly ashamed to say I didn’t know existed, or that they had such a strong story to tell. One in particular, driving through with a coworker from out of province, having a coffee and a “Coles notes” version of the official tour, this is when I really noticed this town.
The long-term citizens I speak to remember struggle and obstinacy, trying to make ends meet when it was very difficult for everyone, as this town had its own share of ups and downs. Stories of crisis and collapse of wealth, stories of success and colossal failure.
The newest citizens have a far different view. They rejoice in the prosperity in that town, embrace the cultures and the opportunities. The growth of jobs, more than 900 businesses setting up shop in a market that might make you worry that’s not sustainable, unless you know some details.
So, while travelling, I noticed a few things about this town, that made me take a closer look. I got to hear a bit about some very close-knit community service clubs and organizations that really power the fundraising efforts for many activities and clubs around town. A lot of passion and strength in conviction these citizens show. There is no lack of caring and compassion there at all.
I was surprised at the volume of business in that otherwise quiet town. No large industry, no major corporations. Just a surge of small-medium business growth, from franchisees to mom-and-pop shops that I thought were extinct. Not so.
To truly understand it how this amazing economy works so well, you must close your eyes and pictures the center of a whirlwind. The eye of the storm. This unassuming little town, set into the magical split between true prairie fields and the beautiful boreal forest, the divide between farmland and lakeland. This so-called “gateway” which I would dub something else entirely. Soaking in the strength of the markets surrounding it like a whirlpool. Bringing in consumers and employees from outlying communities, reaching a radius of miles and miles past the city limits, to invite those consumers into this trading area. Accessible enough to be within commuting range that actually gets you away from town, without worrying about commuter traffic.
Of course I’m talking about Prince Albert. Too often we take our community for granted, but not until you see it from an outsiders eyes do you appreciate all that we have, and how strong we actually are.
Having grown up here, I remember the feeling as a teen, that Prince Albert was somewhere to move from, that there were no opportunities here, no growth. Not so, not at all. I see more opportunity here now than ever before, it just takes a fresh look at it, to really see how lucky we are to be in this community at this point in time.