Students help boost economy in High River
Small business owners gain help from Mount Royal students
Torrents of water violently pushed through window panes and wooden doors, flooding homes and forcing residents out of High River and into homelessness. Fences were flattened, and the earth took a new shape. Railroad tracks stood vertically upwards from the ground and sewage painted green grass brown.
The 2013 floods wreaked havoc on the small town outside of Calgary, creating a new and catastrophic reality for residents. The once lively community is now struggling to survive.
Students from the Bissett School of Business at Mount Royal University are building their entrepreneurial skills hands-on through two community-based initiatives lead by Associate Professor Wendelin Fraser and the High River Renewal Office.
“This is a case study in the making. There has never been a plan on how to come back from a natural disaster. Most of these businesses are only able to buy the bare necessities to keep running,” said Danielle Gibbie, a fourth year business student.
The two-tiered program utilizes students taking Fraser’s Students in Entrepreneurship — ‘Growing the Experience’ course and Enactus, a non-profit student-led chapter that uses entrepreneurial action to help create a more sustainable community. Students will work with the small business owners in High River that were impacted by the 2013 floods.
“Recognizing there was the flood, I knew businesses were so challenged in November,” said Fraser, “I thought that when offering this course in January, I would find ways for our students to partner with businesses in High River that were in such serious trouble.”
Fraser said the class currently has 16 students paired with 16 business owners. Students of the senior-level course will offer advice to local owners on boosting their business, while developing new growth strategies.
According to Zachary Champoux, a second-year business student who is also involved with Enactus, many business owners of the community don’t have a business background — which means advice from senior-level business students extremely helpful.
Champoux and Gibbie, who are both part of Enactus, will also be spearheading a project to get a Farmers Market set up in High River. Gibbie, who is leading the project, said that they want to boost the tourist attraction of the small town.
Champoux said Gibbie’s idea for a Farmers Market originated back in December during the event Wine, Dine and Shop. Calgarians piled into a bus and drove to High River, and enjoyed the evening drinking wine, eating food and shopping. The event raised $5,000 for the community. When Champoux saw the outcome, he decided to create a longer-term project that could help rebuild the economy.
Gibbie, who is also the president of Enactus, said that the Farmers Market will have a Market Collective feel to it, in order to draw tourists into the community.
“We want this to be a place where people can come and enjoy themselves. It will have more of an artistic feel, since the arts is where the community has been hit the hardest. Local artists will be able to showcase their work,” said Gibbie.
Families will be able to come to High River and enjoy the small community, which would boost popularity among other surrounding cities and towns, such as Calgary and Okotoks.
The next Enactus conference, held at the end of April, will showcase the High River project.