Forum offers Woodlands, Whitecourt and Mayerthorpe growth opportunity

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Woodlands County and its neighboring communities will be featured in an upcoming forum that may provide opportunities for new businesses and job creation.

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SiteLink Forum will be held at Eagle River Casino from June 15-17, featuring seven site selectors from different industries tasked with finding new locations to set up shop.

“This gives Woodlands County and Whitecourt a real opportunity to shine,” said Paige Webster, Founder of SiteLink Forum.

“I wouldn’t say site selectors are rock stars, but if these communities have opportunities to be ahead of site selectors, that’s crucial.

“I would say 90% of all large business expansions and relocations are done through a site selector.”

Webster, which is based in Phoenix, Ariz., and runs site selection consulting firm Webster Global Site Selector, has already hosted 15 similar forums.

However, all previous forums were in the United States.

“It’s our first time in Canada, which is great,” said Webster.

Forums typically take place in rural areas, giving communities better access to site selectors, Webster said.

SiteLink found its way to Eagle River Casino after Webster met with Woodlands County Economic Development Officer Bert Roach, Webster said.

Through networking, Roach and Webster got in touch, and in September Webster said he had come to the Whitecourt area to check it out.

Roach drove Webster and watched some of the local newspapers and sawmills, Webster said.

“We thought (Woodlands) would be a good game,” Webster said.

Woodlands Reeve John Burrows said the county is excited to work with neighboring municipalities to host the forum.

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“Understanding the site selection process is critical to developing and diversifying local economies and investment opportunities,” Burrows said in a statement.

“We welcome anyone interested in learning more about the investment attraction and site selection processes at SiteLink Forum and Woodlands County.”

Webster said Woodlands County and other municipal sponsors have been “superb” to work with.

Karen St. Martin, executive director of Mayerthorpe, said the town of Mayerthorpe is also a sponsor and economic development officer Sherry Poole will represent it at the forum.

Webster said the visit to Whitecourt and the region should be an eye-opener for the seven visiting site selectors.

“The site selectors who were coming had no idea there were communities north of Edmonton – they only know of Calgary and Edmonton in Alberta,” Webster said.

After the conference, there will be community tours, Webster said.

Webster said there are only 275 people in North America working as site selectors, who maintain portfolios of companies looking to expand or relocate.

The seven site selectors coming to the area, including Webster himself, will be able to scour the woodlands region for opportunities, he said.

In inviting site selectors to the forum, Webster said he was looking for people involved in industries somewhat related to existing Woodlands assets.

These include agribusiness, forestry, oil and gas, and aerospace (because of Whitecourt Airport), Webster said.

Another site selector coming to the Woodlands forum is heavily involved in cryptocurrency, Webster added.

The forum isn’t very large, with Webster saying attendance is usually capped at around 50, with registration taken at www.sitelinkforum.com.

SiteLink Forum may not be finished with Alberta after Whitecourt, as Webster said he was exploring another forum, possibly in Lac La Biche County.

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Melvin B. Baillie