St. Paul, Alberta (population 6,004) may only be thought of as the home of the world’s first UFO landing pad. But its real claim to fame should be as the hotbed of Canadian social enterprise.
The town is lucky to be the home of the St. Paul Abilities Network, better known as SPAN. Founded in 1964, the organization is focused on helping people with disabilities find a meaningful life in the community. Its businesses include everything from one of the largest industrial laundries in Alberta, a transport trucking company, a booming catering business, a plumbing and heating business and Charitable Developments, which builds housing available for sale to the community. In some cases, these businesses started as a way to create good jobs for SPAN’s clients, but have also become revenue generators for all those things not funded by grant programs.
Now SPAN has embarked on one of its biggest projects ever. Responding to both community need and opportunity, SPAN has built a new hotel in St. Paul, with SEF providing a portion of the construction financing for the project. The hotel will not only provide revenue, but also jobs and training in the hospitality industry, leading to a whole new lifetime of potential.
Entrepreneurs, and in particular social entrepreneurs are usually moving pretty fast.