Think Sask Leaderboard Jan 2021
Features

Off the Beaten Path: Remote Working Offers Small Communities Big Opportunity

In March 2020, massive swathes of the workforce went home to work. Home offices were set up in bedrooms, basements and dining rooms. Commutes dropped to mere seconds, and many of us learned how to look professional from the waist up while introducing family pets and children to our colleagues via Zoom. What a year it was as we learned what jobs could be done from, well, anywhere.

As we carefully “go back to normal,” many employees want to stay home and many employers have seen the benefits of a remote workforce—a reduction in office space, same or improved productivity, engaged employees, and a larger talent pool to recruit from.

This has also meant that employees are exploring where they can do their work. Without the need to live close to work, people are examining where they can call home and departing cities for a slower pace. Nova Scotia Business Inc. launched an online campaign to attract remote workers to the province in December 2021 and has seen thousands of interested people check out what’s on offer. The Halifax real estate market saw a major boom in 2020 with out-of-province homebuyers scooping up properties sometimes sight unseen. It begs the question—can Saskatchewan also showcase its excellent quality of life and low cost of living to the country’s growing remote workforce?

Look Over Here

The town of Eastend is in the southwest corner of the province, south of Cypress Hills and proudly Scotty the T.Rex’s hometown. It’s also seeing a big increase in inquiries about what it can offer remote workers looking to escape the big city rat race. Rosa Vázquez-Ring is the town’s tourism and economic development officer and settled in Eastend after abroad, most recently in Singapore. She fields calls and emails about what the town can offer new residents and proudly talks up her adopted hometown. Inquiries have come from across the country, with many from British Columbia and Ontario, and in the first half of the year, real estate sales in the town have doubled.

Slow Down

Eastend’s new swimming facility.

“We’re nestled in a beautiful valley with all the amenities you need to have a great life,” says Vázquez-Ring. “People are taking notice of us, and also thinking about what they want to do and where they want to do it.” The town has a K-12 school and daycare, swimming pool and rink to keep kids busy year-round, with good internet connectivity for parents logging into work. The town has a lively art scene and tourism sector and engaged residents proud to call Eastend home.

“A local restaurant is owned by a new Canadian family originally from the Philippines, serving up a great menu of Asian cuisine, and our grocery store owners are Korean,” says Vázquez-Ring. “Every Friday is ‘Sushi Friday’ in Eastend. You can have ‘city-style’ experiences in our small town without the city issues.” A new boutique has opened with a major online presence, and there are several home-based online businesses in the community, too.

Eastend will also see its new water treatment plant completed and operational this summer. Using the New Building Canada Fund program, the Eastend Water Project is funded by the federal, provincial and municipal governments with an estimated cost of $8 million. “Quality water is essential to the success of a community as people expect good water,” says Vázquez-Ring.

Langenburg

The town of Langenburg like Eastend—a progressive and growing community. It recently launched a new social media campaign to attract new residents to the area, with a focus on the region’s quality of life, amenities, and job market. Just a month in, and the campaign is generating interest from people looking for a new place to call home. “We are a full-service town, we have a newly-built Pre-K to Grade 12 school, a new outdoor pool facility, daycare, rink, theatre, health clinic, and a vibrant business community,” says Lina Petkeviciene, economic development officer for Langenburg. “We’re also near Canada’s two largest potash mines which are major employers.” The town is also an agricultural hub and just 10 min away from the Manitoba border on Highway #16.

The town’s campaign targets both remote workers and those who live in bigger cities and are looking to relocate to smaller communities. Petkeviciene says Langenberg is a great destination for remote employees. “We have a safe and beautiful town, surrounded by regional and provincial parks, a stable economy, fast internet, and attractive incentives to build a new home here. Remote workers can put down roots in a place where they can have a career, great quality of life and enjoy raising their family in an active, family-friendly community.”

City and Country

Vázquez-Ring credits the award-wining marketing work the town undertook a few years ago for the interest in Eastend and sees major opportunity for rural Saskatchewan to attract remote workers. “You can be in a small place and still be connected to the world. People can work remotely and enjoy the quality of life that comes with rural living while still getting those ‘big city’ things,” she says. “The combination of internet access and working from
home due to the pandemic have shown people that there’s a world outside urban centres worth a look.”