When you look at Cochrane’s indefatigable ability to buck current downward trends in Alberta, you find yourself looking for reasons why.
Our town’s population grew by almost 10 per cent in 2015 (20,708 to 23,084) and is expected to grow again this year, although not quite as quickly – early educated estimates are coming in at around 5-6 per cent.
Comparatively, while just over 31,000 people moved to Alberta in 2015, that number is a 47 per cent drop in the number of people migrating into our province in 2014. Calgary grew by 2.99 per cent from April 2014 to April 2015, or approximately at one-third the pace of Cochrane.
In its early projections for 2016, ATB Financial forecasts net outward migration for Alberta for at least part of the year. Yet Cochrane is expected to continue flourishing.
It starts with “livability.” For a town, Cochrane offers community infrastructure and services you would expect in larger communities. One need only look at Spray Lake Sawmills Family Sports Centre. Completed in 2001, the crown jewel in Cochrane’s infrastructure treasure chest is a huge draw for prospective residents. Boasting three ice rinks, a “dry rink” for winter indoor sports like soccer, rugby and lacrosse, a full gym, exercise room, running track, meeting rooms and activity rooms, our local community rec centre would not be out of place in Calgary, Edmonton or even Ottawa.
Throw in the $45-million expansion currently under construction that includes an indoor aquatic centre and curling facility, scheduled for completion in 2017, and you have a powerful magnet pulling in those seeking a vibrant community hub catering to new-millennium active lifestyles.
Beyond that, you can throw in other community-service pillars like an urgent-care centre, an inviting public library, comprehensive family guidance and assistance from the town’s Family and Community Support Services, 10 public schools and another slated to open this fall.
All this achieved without the elbow-to-elbow feel you get from a large urban centre like Calgary, which you can visit any time by driving 20 minutes east on Highway 1A.
If you were to downplay all the above and, instead, look at a recent province-wide survey, you find a shaft of light shining on our attachment to the great outdoors.
Conducted by the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, a provincial phone survey broken down into regions finds those living in the South Saskatchewan Region (SSR) – which includes Kananaskis Country, MD of Bighorn and the Bow Valley – are very enamoured with our wide-open spaces.
In the SSR portion of the survey, three-quarters of respondents indicate they participate in outdoor activities, and 88 per cent want the government to set aside more wilderness areas where human activity is minimal.
While offering the infrastructure and services prospective residents seek, Cochrane also serves up a big dose of big country. Quite simply, Cochrane is bucking the current downward economic trend because it is perfectly positioned between the buzz of the big city and the peace and tranquility of the great outdoors.
Obviously, a good spot to be in.