Our Local Economy Strengths
- Business Profile
- Transportation Links
- Our Workforce
- Communication Links
- Cost of Living
- Small Business Growth
Our community functions increasingly as an economic hub, attracting trade from Valemount in British Columbia to the western portion of Yellowhead County in Alberta, and from Cadomin north to Grande Cache. About 22,000 residents live within those bounds; 35,000 including Edson and area.
We are home to approximately 650 businesses, including 590 within town boundaries, according to the Town of Hinton. Major employers are Teck Resources (coal), West Fraser Mills Ltd., Sherritt International (coal), Alberta Health Services, Grande Yellowhead Public School Division, Evergreen Regional Catholic School Division and the Town of Hinton. Anticipated future growth includes new coal mining operations that will significantly expand employment while raising environmental concerns.
Although the community does not have a traditional downtown, commercial shopping nodes exist in the Valley and the Hill to serve our community and surrounding region.
Our business community is supported by the Hinton and District Chamber of Commerce, which has more than 160 members.
Located at the intersection of Highways 16 and 40 there are two increasingly important transportation routes where Hinton serves as a gateway to the Northern Rockies, to the west coast corridor and to global markets through Vancouver and Prince Rupert.
The community is also connected by air, with the Jasper/Hinton Airport offering chartered flights through Edmonton and other major urban centres to the rest of the world. CN Rail, VIA Rail and Greyhound stop here.
Transit services have increased in recent years thanks to leadership and partnerships. The Town of Hinton runs fixed route transit buses six days a week; Hinton Handibus offers door-to-door service five days a week and can be rented for private trips. Beaupre Bus Services operates the community’s largest transit service, carrying workers for local employers. Taxis are also available for hire.
A network of trails also provides ways for cyclists and pedestrians to travel in and beyond town. As the system expands, its value for tourism and daily transportation is also increasing. In rural areas, paved provincial primary/secondary highways and local roads facilitate travel. In addition, a network of unpaved resource roads carries traffic related to industry and tourism as well as everyday life.
Town plans have long considered the eventual need for a bypass while seeking to delay its construction by managing traffic flow. Continuing that effort, the current Transportation Master Plan calls for a major road linking Thompson Lake and Terrace Heights with Robb Road. This new link will reduce the mixing of local and through traffic and push the need for a Highway 16 bypass well into the future.
Plans for a bypass around Hinton on the busy Yellowhead Highway have existed since the 1970s as part of Alberta Transportation’s overall highway strategy. The four-lane Highway 16 is difficult for pedestrians and cyclists to navigate. On the other hand, a bypass would divert business from the community. Daily traffic volume along Highway 16 is significantly greater in town than east of town, according to Alberta Transportation:
•West of Switzer Drive: 11,110 vehicles per day in 2009 (down from 13,630 in 2005)
•East of Hwy 40: 4,040 vehicles per day in 2009 (up from 3,660 in 2005)
The community has a significant shadow population of seasonal workers-as high as 10% during peak industrial activity. More than ever, our local worker’s come from a mix of cultures. Alberta’s most recent economic boom and resulting labour shortage caused many employers to hire workers from other countries, especially in the service and hospitality sector.
“Employment was the main reason for living in Hinton. This means that any softening of the economy may result in the working age population diminishing. However, there is also evidence that the key factors in population retention are the lifestyle available in Hinton and family ties.” - Town of Hinton Social Development Strategy Hargreaves & Associates, 2009
Unfortunately, rural residents and businesses do not have similar quality internet access. Issues include access, cost, speed and disruptions in service. There are also pockets with no cell service.
Affordability and access are issues not only for the workforce but also for businesses. Land prices are a particular concern. Business land prices in town along Highway 16 are relatively high. Overall, our real estate is less expensive than Jasper’s and more in line with active real estate markets across Alberta.
“The diversification process is an ongoing endeavour that encourages the continual development of a community‟s economy to foster community growth, maintain quality of life, increase economic base, provide future opportunities for youth, and increase the capacity of the community.” - Town of Hinton Economic Development Committee Community Diversification Plan, 2010
Other goals for economic diversification include transition to a retirement and vacation home community; becoming a regional hub for post-secondary education; and fostering businesses and support and/or add value to the resource sector, such as the Foothills Research Institute and the Forest Engineering Research Institute of Canada.
“The high cost of living prevents a lot of people from moving to Hinton and also presents a challenge for businesses as business costs are higher than in other communities.” - Community Consultation Participant
A diverse economy contributes to balanced population growth. Knowing that, the Hinton Economic Development Committee has set its sights on reaching a resident population of 12,000 by 2015, not including temporary workers. The committee anticipates the following economic and social benefits:
- Greater access to provincial and federal funding
- More capital and lending sources for citizens and businesses
- Position as a strategic hub within an emerging hub-and-spoke infrastructure strategy
- Ability to pursue additional education, recreation and infrastructure opportunities
- Expanded community capacity for leadership and volunteerism
- A critical mass needed to fuel diversification and expand employment options Ability to spread the costs of municipal services among more residents