Go big or go home

Olafson began Narrows West Ranch Estates and the 330-lot development last year. Construction of the hotel and water park is expected to begin in the spring of 2010, with completion set for late 2011 or early 2012.

“My family has been here for 100 years,” said Olafson. “My grandfather started the lodge in the 1970s and sold it to his sons. My mom and dad bought them out, then my wife and I bought them out recently and it evolved from there. I love the area and I wanted to do something. A resort in the area has been overlooked.”

Olafson is doing his best to make sure people won’t overlook it anymore, having found many investors in Alberta, and raising public awareness through public forums in Winnipeg, Ste. Rose du Lac, Eddystone, Ashern and Narrows West Lodge last Monday to Friday.

Olafson says the economic impact of these projects for the area will include the creation of a town, general tourism traffic, 2,000 construction jobs, 270 permanent jobs, $415 million in annual property/school taxes, job training potential and social developments.

“It’ll be huge,” said Olafson. “The reason I’m having these open houses in the area now is there are kids going into school for two-and-a-half, three years for culinary arts, tourism, etcetera, and when they graduate, they know there are jobs here. I’d rather use local people than outsource.”

Olafson says he’s brought in a company to manage the lodge so he can work on the developments.

“Later on we want our own team of local people,” said Olafson.

Olafson says so far the greatest challenge has been government red tape, but he’s willing to work with them and the community.

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“The community support has been great,” said Olafson. “Most people are happy with it and happen to love the area as much as I do.”

Gordon McDougall, an Ashern resident who attended Olafson’s open house at the Centennial Hall last Thursday, is one of those people.

“It looks neat,” said McDougall. “It’ll create a big boom. I’ve had property in the area for 38 years, across from the hotel, and I wish them luck. It’ll come and get people out here.”

McDougall offers his well wishes on one condition.

“As long as there aren’t too many boats on the lake,” said McDougall, chuckling.

Olafson says his development wouldn’t have been possible without his three partners, Joey Jacob, Gerhard Murray and Travis Ives.

“These three have the passion for developing the area like I do,” said Olafson.

Olafson says this is only the beginning for Narrows West Lodge and Narrows West Development.

“Our investors are already asking what’s next,” said Olafson. “They realize the value in the area.”