by Jeff Burgar
Anybody driving by the east end of High Prairie can’t help but like the signs of construction happening there. UFA is putting up a new building. The East Gate development is going ahead with the Peavey Mart. More is possibly on the way.
These are all nice additions to construction the past few years that saw the Quartly shop, Home Hardware, Martin Deerline and more go up.
And a $220 million hospital complex that if outfitted properly to service the region will be another “Jewel of the North”.
These things all make people very proud of their community. It’s nice to brag about to visitors. It’s nice to point out to people who may have moved from the area. In fact, we can go all the way back to about 40 years ago.
That’s when KFC built its sit-down restaurant, as one small step on the way to maintaining High Prairie’s role as a regional service centre. We were all as pleased as the cat that just snared the rabbit when KFC opened.
Much has changed in the years since. New buildings. New businesses. More restaurants. Many new businesses come and gone. Those who live here often don’t appreciate how much has changed, even in the past five years. It often takes fresh eyes from outside to see the differences.
Interestingly, the real changes aren’t taking place in High Prairie. They are in places like Peavine and Sucker Creek. Driftpile, Faust, Kinuso, Gift Lake, Joussard, Hilliard’s Bay and more. It’s really quite exciting when you stop to think about it all.
Aberdeen Developments, the company building the Peavey Mart facility, said in their news release announcing Peavey Mart, “We think High Prairie is under-retailed.”
It’s a cruel fact of life that people making decisions about High Prairie look at a map and see only one thing: Population 2,800. So toss in another 2,500 or 3,000 people for the people around, just as a guesstimate. That brings the whole population to be served to maybe 6,000. Heck, that isn’t even a neighborhood in Edmonton or Calgary.
Does the community get credit for East Prairie? Zero. Gift Lake? Zero. Grouard? Zero.
In fact, over half the people who make High Prairie and area their home aren’t really counted by big box stores, fast food places or government.
It’s all quite simple. If you are the person making investments, it’s hard for someone to find fault with your call to build in Lloydminster, or Grande Prairie. If the business fails, well, that’s probably the fault of your local manager, or some unforeseen circumstance. Locate in High Prairie and it fails, well, that’s your own dumb fault.
So of course, most times, the community is passed by. It doesn’t show the right numbers for the bean counters.
The bottom line? High Prairie punches well above what the numbers show. Always has, and likely always will.
The more local people that spread this word, every chance they get, the more people from outside will realize this simple fact.