Hinton’s biggest challenge is cracking open its untapped potential and opportunities, says a community growth strategist and former MLA familiar with the area.
Community Futures West Yellowhead hosted a Sept. 12 presentation by Doug Griffiths, which focused on communities embracing change.
Griffiths, who has family in Hinton, spent a lot of time in the community throughout his life. and shared some of his insights of Hinton with The Voice after the presentation.
“I think [Hinton] has a lot of opportunities. I do think frankly one of the biggest issues, and it might not be just Hinton, it could be the whole region, there has been a bit of complacency,” he said.
He explained that the region has relied on big industry employers with plenty of jobs, which created prosperity for the region. This prosperity allowed the community to be complacent and not dig deeper in its untapped potential, he said.
“If any of those industries are lost, that will create a crisis. It’s important that before a crisis comes, for the entire region to do a deep dive analysis into those other opportunities. The quality-of-life opportunities and really focus on the kind of people that they can attract to the community and what’s needed and grow before there’s a crisis,” he said.
His company, 13 Ways, is dedicated to helping communities grow and thrive. His insights are based on research and experience as a retired Alberta MLA and a one-time Progressive Conservative leadership candidate. Griffiths has helped improve more than 500 communities across North America, and wrote a best-selling book, 13 Ways to Kill Your Community, with data, personal experiences and anecdotes explaining common challenges communities face.
He added that the biggest problems human beings have is that if they’re successful they aren’t inspired to change, and it usually takes a crisis before realizing change is vital.
He suggested Hinton and the region to really look at all their assets and strengths besides industry to determine how they can grow their community in case the major employers disappear someday.
“That’s just being proactive instead of reactive,” he said.
Hinton sits in a unique place, geographically, and Griffiths believes it could benefit not only from bordering a national park, but also offering quality-of-life, recreation, the outdoors, and an authentic sense of community.
During his presentation in Hinton he explained that many young people are moving out of big cities in search of a real community with walkable neighbourhoods and genuine connections.
Millennials seek quality of life over status and see success in a different way than older generations did, he said in his presentation.
This is important to note because millennials won’t move to a place that doesn’t offer these things.
“Hinton sits on the cusp of a national park with incredible beauty and it does well, but it’s missing some of the opportunities for economic growth. It hasn’t been forced to figure out how it can grow, it’s been successful almost by default sometimes,” he said to The Voice.
Hinton needs to be deliberate about it’s opportunities and not just expect success to come, he added.
“Hinton is a place where I think half the world would want to live if they knew Hinton existed. But for the most part, people don’t know Hinton exists and the quality of life it offers and the opportunity [it presents],” he said.
Griffiths believes Hinton would grow due to the quality of life it offers and not just its resource industries.
During his presentation he also touched on the topic of housing, which is an issue where, at first glance, Griffiths said Hinton has some issues.
A quick look on a multiple listing service (MLS) used by real estate brokers to see listings of properties for sale in certain areas, told him that the price of housing in Hinton is comparable to big cities like Edmonton and Calgary.
“It applies to Hinton and almost every community I’ve been in. They need diversified housing, not affordable housing but housing affordability is an issue,” he said.
Most communities are still building subdivisions, which in Griffiths’ perspective are dying.
Subdivisions are built with houses and two car garages, which a lot of people can’t afford or don’t want.
He explained that young people want to live in communities with socialization, they don’t want to hide out in the basement and cocoon.
Bringing back housing on mainstreets with a variety of single bedroom, two-bedroom, and three-bedroom style apartments, duplexes, and condos, is imperative, Giffiths explained.
“Housing diversity leads to housing affordability which leads to growth,” he stated.
He added that the average price of a house in Hinton sits somewhere in the high $300,000s to low $400,000s, which places a lot of people out of the opportunity to live in Hinton.
“Every community, not just Hinton, needs a whole new strategy to develop diversified housing, create housing affordability, to attract a diversified workforce and public that are looking to live in different communities, real authentic neighbourhoods,” he said.
Many other factors come into play when building a successful community, which he spoke about in his nearly two-hour long presentation.
He explained how different factors affect a community like how quickly technology changes, education, local businesses, attracting millennials, child care, retaining seniors, housing, and even the attitudes of its citizens.
He explained that many small businesses believe online shopping is killing their community, but that local businesses need to find something they can offer that isn’t offered online.
Don’t compete with Amazon, he urged, instead offer an experience to draw people into the business.
To learn more, go to 13ways.ca.