Category Archives: Business

First Impressions Report – Maple Creek ideas

The first two articles in this series looked at the positive remarks and at the suggestions for improvement made by Maple Creek visitors to Unity.

Today, in the last article of the series, we take a look at some ideas Unity visitors to Maple Creek, Saskatchewan, were inspired by, after travelling there for the day Aug. 27, 2014.

Carey Baker, Emma Baker, Nicole Goldsworthy, Sylvia Maljan, Marion Kelly, Sharon Cumming, Femi Ajayi and Helena Long were all part of the Saskatchewan Economic Development Association First Impressions exchange program between the Town of Maple Creek and the Town of Unity. With an eye to reporting back on both the positives and negatives of Maple Creek to potential new residents and investors, at least in terms of “first impressions,” the Unity group split up and spent the day driving and walking the streets, shopping at businesses, eating at cafés and restaurants and interacting with Maple Creek residents.

In the written reports filed by each participant afterwards, as well as discussed at subsequent meetings, the Unity group also looked at ideas from Maple Creek that could benefit Unity.

One promotional item Maple Creek uses received top marks for – an annual event brochure. In Maple Creek, the brochure was made in a triangular shape so it could stand on the tables at restaurants. It was also available at their tourist centre, town office, gas stations and other public places.

A Unity events brochure could include events such as Western Days activities, Celebrate Unity, the fall steak and lobster fundraiser supper, the wildlife supper, music festival, Canada Day activities and others and also a reference to the senior men’s hockey and baseball teams.

Visitors to Unity and potential visitors, like people stopping for fuel at the co-op C-store, picking up a sandwich at Subway or having lunch at the Armada, would get a glimpse into the lives of Unity residents and see some of the sport, recreational and cultural activities offered in town. The brochure would also be a reminder to residents of upcoming events.

Two other relatively inexpensive ideas that could be borrowed from the Town of Maple Creek were district tourism map placemats and a wedding registry.

The placemats at the restaurants in Maple Creek showed the town and all nearby points of interests on a map of the area.

A local kitchen store offered a wedding registry to local couples. Brides and grooms were able to “window shop” through the store and create their wish lists for wedding gifts, which the store then kept on file. Those shopping for shower or wedding gifts for the couple could access the list, which would be updated as purchases were made. The store displayed the list of upcoming marriages, complete with names and dates, so everyone would know who was getting married when.

First Impressions ReportSuch a wedding registry could easily be used in Unity to encourage local shopping for wedding and shower gifts. Although in Maple Creek, one store had taken the initiative, there’s no need to limit the registry to one store. Country Pantry is an obvious choice but North American Lumber, Delta Co-op Unity Home Centre, Crystal Clarity and Wildeman Sports Excellence are all other places one could buy unique and wanted gifts.

Downtown, Maple Creek had some empty storefronts. Many of those storefronts were decorated however, in some cases with large murals painted on the windows. The “first impression” was of a busy Main Street, and not of empty buildings.

First Impressions report

One wall in the museum at Maple Creek features photos of the graduating classes over the years. In Unity, these photos are on display at Unity Composite High School but anyone returning “home” for a visit during the summer months would not be able to see them.

Requiring some investment, and in some cases an entrepreneur, other wish list items included a bakery, a community garden, a splash and skate park, a laundromat and public showers and a tourist information centre.

Improvement is a never-ending process but it is nice to sometimes have some direction as to which way to go next. That’s exactly what the First Impressions program was intended to provide – some direction, whether from the report by Maple Creek residents or from the ideas brought home from Maple Creek by Unity residents.

SaskEnergy warning customers about scam phonecalls

SaskEnergy is warning its customers of a telemarketing scam occurring in various areas of the province.

SaskEnergy has received reports that individuals claiming to be from SaskEnergy are contacting customers threatening disconnection of their natural gas service unless a payment is made. The caller claimed to be a SaskEnergy representative.

The calls are reported to be coming from 1-800-983-1304 and the caller ID reads SaskEnergy (the name or number on your call display may vary).  The caller asks for a payment by prepaid debit or credit card.

This is not a SaskEnergy representative. While SaskEnergy does contact customers via phone from time to time, the corporation never requests payment information over the phone, and does not accept prepaid debit or credit cards.

Anyone who has received calls of this nature should report the call to Phonebusters (the Canadian Anti-fraud Call Centre) at 1-888-495-8501. If a customer has provided personal financial information, including bank account or credit card information, over the phone, they should report the matter to their local police, as well as immediately contact their financial institution.

If you have questions about your SaskEnergy bill, or are unsure if the person contacting you is from SaskEnergy, ask for the person’s name, and call SaskEnergy back at 1-800-567-8899 to verify the caller.

First impressions report — room for improvement

Last week, we reported on the positive first impressions of Unity as noted by visitors from Maple Creek when they spent a day in our town late last summer. As stated last week, along with the positives, our guests also gave us some constructive criticism when they completed their First Impressions surveys forms, as provided by the Saskatchewan Economic Development Association’s First Impressions program.

A frequently mentioned theme in the comments was the lack of signage and not knowing how to get to the downtown or where it was. As luck would have it, the Maple Creek people were in Unity Aug. 26; the new “ShopportUNITY” signs pointing the way to downtown were installed shortly afterwards, to be followed in short order by the directional signs.

ShopportUNITY

Both sets of signs and the large “OpportUNITY in Unity” signs were a joint project of the Town of Unity and the Unity and District Chamber of Commerce. The chamber is a volunteer organization of local businesses and in total contributed $8,000 for the bright, up-to-date signage.

Along with multiple comments on the lack of signs generally, the visitors also noted that there was “no sign on the rink.”

Once the First Impressions participants found the Unity downtown area, despite the then-lack of signage, they were impressed with the variety of shopping available, but noted “Needed to be more garbage cans, seating and floral displays/greenery in the downtown core.”

In general window displays were found to be lacking and individual signage by stores and businesses also came in for some criticism. Specific comments included: “signs on business downtown were hard to read;” storefronts were generally ‘blah;’” “saw only one window display, and only the bottom 15 (inches) as all stores had their blinds down;” and “majority of businesses did not seem to have window displays.”

To sum up the impression given by Unity’s downtown area, it was clean and serviceable but lacked some oomph; although the murals did receive favourable comments.

Perceptions of service were mostly favourable but with a few commenting on being kept waiting or sales staff seeming uninterested in answering questions. Perhaps a reminder to business owners to remind employees of the importance of customer service?

Another issue noted was inconsistency of business hours, with the suggestion being made that all, or at least most, businesses should be open the same days and hours so both residents and visitors can plan accordingly.

Another spot in Unity which received mixed reviews was Memorial Park. Positives were the paved pathways, green space and the cenotaph itself, drawing the comment, “The cenotaph is extraordinary! Beautiful sculpture of a WWI soldier at the top.”

Cenotaph, Unity, Saskatchewan

While the setting for the memorial was described as “beautiful, peaceful and moving,” the flower and shuddery beds around the cenotaph were described as “overgrown” by more than one commentator. Someone added the park seems to be “under-utilized.” More than one person suggested benches and/or picnic tables might improve Memorial Park, both in appeal and use. The “gorgeous mature trees” were appreciated but “some of them require pruning.”

The Unity and District Heritage Museum and grounds received much attention and many comments. A common theme in articles in the Unity Wilkie Press-Herald over the past couple of years has been a request for more volunteers to help at the museum. Please keep the need for additional volunteers in mind as you read the following comments.

People checking out the Highway 21 north entrance to town commented, “the grass and weeds growing up among the machinery” gave the impression of an industrial compound rather than an enclosure for an outdoor museum. “Removing the weeds would have made it more obvious that the machinery were artifacts.”

Also described as “a currently under-utilized community asset,” it was suggested “Even just enhancing the basic visitor experience with interpretive panels (and/or) a self-guided walking touring booklet … would make the visitor experience more compelling and memorable.”

Other suggestions in general made by the First Impressions out-of-town participants included walking path maps; partnering with industrial businesses such as Sifto Salt to create a regular tour schedule to attract tourists; offering tours at KC Rescue; restoring downtown buildings to take their heritage character into account; expanding upon the murals, “possibly paired with a street chalk festival;” listing dates and events on signage at the rodeo grounds; educating front-line sales staff at downtown businesses on “what there is to do in Unity;” and developing more cultural activity.

In their introduction to the report, the Maple Creek team reminded Unity readers, “The comments in this report are … in no way meant to be critical. The team greatly enjoyed the visit to Unity and found it to be a lovely community. It is our sincere hope that you find some of our comments and first impressions of some value.”

Next week – what Unity First Impressions participants learned on their trip to Maple Creek.

A long weekend and a new paper

Wishing all our readers and subscribers, in print and online, a very Happy Family Day weekend! The February 16th Unity Wilkie Press-Herald will be available Tuesday, February 17. In its pages you can expect to learn:

  • which UCHS team has won a provincial award for sportsmanship;
  • what First Impressions visitors to Maple Creek, SK,  brought back with them as ideas for Unity to try;
  • about a “school of rock” in Luseland; and
  • who the winners were in the Denzil men’s bonspiel.

And of course more, including a thought-provoking piece on vaccinations, the RCMP report, hockey reports, a Royal Purple report and an article on an unusual sport being pursued by a Unity SK teen.

Below – painted windows soften the appearance of empty stores in Maple Creek’s downtown.

main street, maple creek SK

 

Positive first impressions of Unity

What do visitors think of Unity, Saskatchewan? What’s the first impression our town makes on those just passing through or popping in for a quick visit? Are there things about our community — positive or negative — a traveller or guest notices that we have become so used to seeing, it’s no longer on our radar?

Answers to those questions were sought in August, 2014, when the Town of Unity and the Unity and District Chamber of Commerce took part in the Saskatchewan Economic Development Association’s “First Impressions” program. “Volunteers from two somewhat similar communities agree to do unannounced exchange visits and then report on their findings. Participants become ‘secret shoppers’ for the day to discover what they can about their sister city,” explains SEDA’s website.

Under the guidance of Carey Baker, economic development officer for the Town of Unity, Unity and Maple Creek were partnered up and one sunny day towards the end of August, eight individuals from the Town of Maple Creek descended unannounced upon the Town of Unity.

A comprehensive written report on their “first impressions” has now been received from the Maple Creek visitors. In this first of a three-part series on the First Impressions program, we will look at what these visitors saw as strengths and positives about Unity.

For the most part, the First Impressions participants were impressed with how clean and tidy our town is, along with the green space we have.

Some comments along this line included: “lots of green space & wide streets;” “town was very neat and tidy — streets, houses, yards;” “drove every street, only two residential lots were unkempt;” “despite being overwhelmingly the first thing one experiences upon arrival in Unity, the industrial areas and facilities are remarkably well maintained and landscaped;” “residential parks are peaceful & well maintained;” and “Parkview Place seniors’ housing impressed me in a positive way because of its beautiful grounds which includes benches, flowers, vegetable garden, & fruit trees.” Although school was not yet back in session, it was noted the grass was mowed in all the school playgrounds.

Of course the regional park with our ball diamonds was also referenced. One person said, “I was blown away by the ball diamond complex. It is vast and elaborate with amazing infrastructure from bleachers to scoreboards & announcer’s booths, to concession stands. The quality of everything was exquisite. Given the scale and immaculate condition of the baseball diamond complex, it appears as though Unity takes its baseball very, very seriously.”

Town of Unity ball diamonds

Another site which garnered a very favourable reaction was Pleasant View Cemetery. “The cemetery was spectacular! The setting amidst the wheat fields, the metal gateway arch, the landscaping design, the perimeter spruce rows, and the grooming. Easily the most beautiful, best landscaped, and most amazing cemetery I have seen.”

Pleasant View Cemetery

Along with the praise for the cleanliness of the town and the green space, our downtown murals were enjoyed by the visitors. One person said, “The murals made the downtown very striking, especially those on the fronts of buildings like the Funeral Home.”

In the report summary, four items were listed as the most outstanding feature of our community: community pride, murals and green space, the cemetery and the baseball diamonds.

Along with those things, positive feedback was received about residents’ access to health care. It was noted Unity has a resident dentist, optometrist, chiropractor, massage therapists, doctors and “seniors’ housing for all levels of care.”

The availability of other professional services in town such as banks, credit union, accountants, lawyers and financial planners was also commented on.

Other highlights mentioned in the evaluation by the volunteer visitors were the dog park, KC Rescue — “what a fantastic undertaking for a community of this size” — the “OpportUNITY” slogan and signage, the Courtesy Car and the cenotaph — “extraordinary!”

Cenotaph, Unity, Saskatchewan

Businesses of note included Country Pantry, Found Treasures, Wildeman’s Sports Excellence, Chase Pilates and “the crystal store,” most of which were referenced in several parts of the report including in answers to questions such as “what … would bring you back?”

Another noteworthy business was Maljan’s Shoe Repair. “The cobbler’s shop on Main Street was like stepping back in time. What a great business to still have operating within the community!”

The North American Lumber store building was a highlight: “Loved the lumber yard! What an incredible example of that era of lumber yard architecture with the central hardware shop and the two drive-through lumber sheds on either side … Modern tin aside, the building is a gem.”

Prior to the visit, the Maple Creek people had checked out the town and other websites. The town website received a number of favourable comment, including specific mention of the business directory and of the website in general being “easy to use.”

One person’s wrap-up comment about Unity was “It was different than I expected. I had expected it to look much  more tired and rundown, and it was crisp and clean.”

Perhaps these fresh eyes looking at our town will remind us all to stop and consider ho much our community has to offer both to residents and to visitors. That being said, no town is perfect, of course, and Unity is no exception, according to our “secret shopper” visitors. Stay tuned – next week we will post a summary of their suggestions for improvement.

Beware of travel discount scams!

The Saskatchewan government warned residents this week about scammers selling discount travel packages. The government press release is reprinted below:

The recent cold snap has people dreaming of sun and sand but the Consumer Protection Division of the Saskatchewan Financial and Consumer Affairs Authority reminds consumers to be aware of scam artists claiming to sell discount travel packages.

Callers claiming to represent Luxury Getaway Group have been offering travel packages to people in Saskatchewan. Luxury Getaway Group is not licensed as a direct seller.

Unsolicited sales calls are considered direct sales under The Direct Sellers Act.  If a salesperson or company calls you to sell something, they are required to have a licence.

Red flags include:

  • Unsolicited phone calls or mailers that offer travel packages that sound too good to be true.
  • High pressure sales – If a caller pressures you to “buy now or lose out on a limited time offer”, you should be wary.

Protect yourself by:

  • Asking for the licence number and confirming it is valid on www.fcaa.gov.sk.ca/fcaa411/.
  • Not giving out your credit card number over the phone unless you initiate the call and know who you are calling.
  • Checking with the Better Business Bureau and researching the company for free online at www.bbb.org/saskatchewan/.

If you think you are the target of a travel package scam, record the date and time of the call, the name of the telemarketer, their phone number, website or additional identification information and contact the Consumer Protection Division at consumerprotection@gov.sk.ca or toll free at 1-877-880-5550.

Like the toucan below, captured in a shot on a trip south, keep your eyes open!

travel photo

 

New gas and power usage records set in Saskatchewan

With temperatures dropping, both SaskPower and SaskEnergy/TransGas set new records for power use and natural gas consumption January 4 and 5. According to Environment Canada, records at their weather station at Scott, Saskatchewan, showed the temperature dropping to -35C the night of January 4.

SaskPower says the new peak power load record of 3,583 megawatts was reached at 6:20 pm January 4.

According to a press release issued by SaskPower, they acquired approximately 7,800 new residential, commercial and industrial customers over the course of the 2014 year. Acting president and CEO Mike Marsh said, “We continue to set new records for power consumption, the result of more people living and working in our province than ever before.”

Meanwhile, TransGas delivered 1.27 PetaJoules of natural gas in 24 hours from Sunday, January 4, to Monday, January 5. According to a SaskEnergy press release, this was a two per cent increase over the previous record of 1.24 PetaJoules, set Dec. 6, 2014.

The release explained, “A PetaJoule is a unit of measurement equivalent to one million GigaJoules of natural gas — the average home in Saskatchewan consumes about 105 GigaJoules of natural gas annually.”

Like SaskPower, SaskEnergy has also been adding new customers. Since the previous record was set, about 7,300 new customers have been added to the TransGas distribution network.

SaskPower provided the following tips both to lighten the demand and to lessen your power bills.

Turn down the thermostat. For every degree you lower your thermostat overnight for an eight-hour period, you can save up to two per cent on your heating costs.

Plug in your car with a timer. Your car only needs to be plugged in for four hours. Using a block heater timer will save you around $25 a year.

Turn out the lights. Shorter days and longer nights mean interior lights in your home are on longer. Remember to turn them out when you leave a room. Better yet, use LED light bulbs and cut down the power used by about three-quarters.

Grand in Your Hand winners drawn

Congratulations to residents Ed Lantz and Bob Heilman, winners of $1,000 each in the Unity and District Chamber of Commerce 2014 Grand in Your Hand draw.

Here’s Chamber president Helena Long reaching deep into the thousands of collected ballots gathered up in the back of a 2015 Chevy Traverse to pull the first of the two names drawn Dec. 23, 2014, at Unity, Saskatchewan.

2014 Grand in Your Hand

Photos of people of Unity, Saskatchewan in October

 

Unity Hospital AuxiliaryPresident of the Unity and District Hospital Auxiliary Rose Mauthe presents Bill McCubbing (above) and Don Robertson (below) with their cheques as the lucky winners of the auxiliary’s 50/50 fundraiser.Unity Hospital Auxiliary

Peter Gartner of the Unity Golf Club gives Amber and Jody Sperle the winning certificate for the November Trip of the Month – a four day trip to Palm Springs, Cal. Contact a member of the golf club to get your ticket for next year’s Trip of the Month draws.trip

Also “in the news” last month was the upcoming retirement of long-time Unity dentist, Dr. Daniel Azuelos. A retirement celebration and farewell tea was held for Daniel and his wife Lynn at the New Horizon Hall Oct. 18. The couple will be living in an urban centre outside Montreal, Quebec, when Dr. Azuelos leaves Unity, Saskatchewan at the end of the year.Dr. Daniel Azuelos