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Canmore reflects on itself and the future

Community handed 20 recommendations by American branding expert
brand aid The town of Canmore realized it needs to develop a brand so the community hired an expert to help get the process started. Photo byGus MacLeod, <a href=""></a>

Canmore is searching to find itself so it called in an expert to help.

The Alberta town between Banff and Calgary concluded it needed to do a better job of marketing itself. Growing from that realization community leaders decided the first step might be creating a brand for Canmore.

Economic development leaders and tourism promoters teamed up with Canmore's council to bring in a branding expert to deliver a report with recommendations.

Roger Brooks of Destination Development Inc. from Seattle was contracted and according to Canmore mayor Ron Casey, he has delivered some valuable initial findings.

When asked if it was a good move for Canmore to bring in an outside expert the mayor didn't hesitate in delivering an answer.

"Oh, geez, I think so," he said. "I think it was a great eye-opener for us."

Brooks recently spoke at a branding forum in Canmore hosted by Tourism Canmore Kananaskis and the Canmore Economic Development Authority.

"People are still talking about it weeks later," said Casey in an interview from his Canmore office.

"It was actually a very good exercise for us," he said of the presentation and the work done to date by Brooks.

Brooks dropped into Canmore unannounced and spent some time in the town doing what a typical visitor does.

"I think everyone found it really valuable because it was certainly that critical eye that sometimes you don't get from your own residents or from your normal visitor that's here all the time," said the mayor.

From the presentation of initial findings from Brooks, community leaders heard loud and clear that signage and way-finding could use improvement.

"The most used asset we have is our trail system throughout the town," said Casey. Brooks found that some of the signage was difficult to follow and the mapping wasn't clear enough.

From the initial presentation by Brooks, Casey admitted that the trail system might be scary for someone not familiar with it.

According to Casey, Brooks also shared some thoughts on building vitality in the downtown core of Canmore.

"We have some of it occurring right now," said Casey. "We have a great market that goes on Thursday nights during the summer months."

Casey said there's potential to build on the success of the market by allowing buskers to perform at certain times to add life and vitality to the downtown area.

"(Brooks) talked a little about architecture and the look and feel of the downtown," said Casey.

The mayor said Brooks looked at 20 separate items while he was in Canmore.

"He gave you a pass or a fail," said Casey. "Some you pass, some you were sort of in the middle and others you failed miserably."

For the most part, Casey felt Brooks offered usable feedback.

"You are never sure when you hire a consultant from somewhere else," said Casey. "Sometimes you get recommendations that are unrealistic or unachievable because certainly their eyes, their viewpoint is just completely beyond anything that would work where you live, but that certainly wasn't the case here. I would say that 90 per cent of the stuff he presented to us hit home."

At the end of the process, said Casey, his community really wants to come up with a branding campaign.

"Canmore's never really had a brand," he said. "It is not quite as recognizable as the Pepsi logo or something like that. At the end of this exercise we hope we have at least the tools to sit down and come up with the brand that works for the community, works for the industry and gives us something to move forward with. We're relatively new with this tourism thing only being at it 20 years or so."

Casey said the biggest industry in his town is the second-home industry and it took a hit when the world economic situation shifted. Finding second-home loans is more challenging now than ever before.

There is some big industry nearby. Casey said Lafarge has a cement plant and there is also a calcium and lime plant along with a magnesium production plant, but most of the industrial workers live in Cochrane where property is more reasonably priced.

Following the community forum, the people of Canmore are anxiously standing by awaiting more from Brooks.

Casey said the consultant is still working toward writing a final report for the community. In the meantime the town, in the shadows of the Rocky Mountains and on the banks of the Bow River, is putting serious thought into its future and how it is going to market itself to compete for precious visitors who bring new money into the community.