June 2013

Manitoba Chamber of Commerce

Issue link: http://publications.winnipegfreepress.com/i/141831

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PA R K L A N D W hen Damien McNabb moved to Russell from the Yukon in 1999, he got an early sense of the town's enterprising spirit. "I was looking for a job and a friend in town said, 'How would you like to work at our ski hill?' " McNabb recalls. "I said, 'You have a ski hill?' and he said, 'No, but we're building one.' " Now chair of the Russell and District Chamber of Commerce, McNabb was among those who laughed at the prospect of a ski hill near this town of 1,600 near the Saskatchewan border. But when the Asessippi Ski Area and Resort opened a year later, it was proof positive that these small-town folks think big. Asessippi is thriving, attracting visitors in increasing numbers to partake of alpine skiing and downhill tubing. On Dec. 31, 2012, the family-friendly resort just north of town welcomed its one millionth guest. That same can-do attitude inspires new economic development efforts, especially the Main Street Revitalization Project (MSRP), which is literally changing the face of Russell. "We know we can't compete with major urban centres, but we can create an atmosphere that is entertaining and welcoming that draws visitors to our town," McNabb says. "Our goal was to create and maintain a unique identity for Russell that would ensure our ongoing growth. We knew we had to turn it into a tourism town." The MSRP committee's research took them to Leavenworth, Wash., a small town that overcame challenges. "It was virtually dying until they pulled together and turned the town into a Bavarian ski village where the stores, buildings and general atmosphere feature a distinctive Old World motif." The Leavenworth success story helped spur Russell residents to take advantage of the popularity of Asessippi by creating a ski-village atmosphere. The committee had no trouble enlisting the support of local leaders and merchants in transforming downtown into a welcoming, picturesque focal point for economic development. "We were aware that a lot of visitors would stop for gas and lunch in town before heading directly to the ski hill," McNabb says. "We were losing those people, so this revitalization will bring renewed interest in our town and more visitors." A visual highlight of the revitalized downtown is a series of decorative, wood laminate arches, appropriately known as The Arches over Main Street. The arches were salvaged from the old Dauphin Arena when it was demolished. Turns out they were built by a former Russell manufacturer — a discovery that was made just seven days before the arches were to be sent to the landfill. They've since been repurposed in memorable style. Adorned with decorative lighting, arches currently loom over four key intersections and there are plans to erect more at every intersection along Main Street. The project is nurturing a pedestrian-friendly atmosphere by expanding sidewalks and introducing more green space and running underground cables to supply attractive lighting for trees. Merchants got into the spirit by revamping storefronts to fit the ski-village theme, and there are more encouraging developments in the business community. Over the past 10 years, 40 new businesses have been established, and when the Russell Regional Multiplex opened last year, it brought additional retail space, a new hockey arena and an all-season meeting site to Main Street. The MSRP is being completed in stages, due to costs, the large scope of the project and the number of different stakeholders involved. McNabb says it's "still about five to 10 years away from where we actually want it to be," but it is moving in the right direction. His enthusiasm for the project is contagious, and he applauds the people of Russell for adopting a shared vision and making it work. "We are a community that doesn't say no to good ideas," he says. "We want to keep our small-town appeal where everybody knows your name, but we also know we must adapt in order to grow and thrive. It requires commitment and teamwork. No one here really helps out just to see their name in lights. It's all about community." www.russellmb.com PARKLAND DAUPHIN & DISTRICT CHAMBER OF COMMERCE ROBLIN & DISTRICT CHAMBER OF COMMERCE ROSSBURN & DISTRICT CHAMBER OF COMMERCE RUSSELL & DISTRICT CHAMBER OF COMMERCE SWAN VALLEY CHAMBER OF COMMERCE NEW & NOTEWORTHY >> Roblin was incorporated as a village on May 1, 1913, and its centennial celebration continues July 12 - 21 with a full slate of events, including a time-capsule ceremony, daily community breakfasts, concerts, an air show put on by the Snowbirds Demonstration Team (431 Squadron) and a Northwest Mounted Police reenactment. See www.roblinmanitoba.com. >> Parkland Humane Society got a $1,145 boost from the Dauphin's Countryfest 2012 Thank a Volunteer program. The society's Denise Penrose and her grandson Jake Pohl were rewarded for their volunteer work at the festival's main gate. The money is earmarked for operating expenses. The society has also raised about $300,000 to build a shelter, which is expected to open this summer. >> The Dauphin & District Chamber of Commerce presents its 13th annual Street Fair and Dance Aug. 1. The soiree starts at 8 a.m. and continues until midnight, with a pancake breakfast, musical entertainment, a beer garden, a children's fun zone, a wide variety of vendors and plenty of Ukrainian food. MBiz June 2013 13 MBiz June 2013_final.indd 13 6/21/13 2:55:05 PM

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