Just over eight years ago, Erick Estrada moved to Edmonton not knowing a word of English and enrolled in NAIT to learn the language. He met his wife, bought a house in the Alberta Avenue community, and joined his community league, eventually becoming the treasurer. 

Now, Estrada is the new executive director for the Alberta Avenue Business Association (AABA). He has a bachelor’s degree in business administration and management, also through NAIT. 

Since starting the position in mid July, Estrada has been tasked with attracting good businesses to the area and seeing them thrive. There are over 200 businesses in Alberta Avenue, not just on 118 Avenue but also on 95 Street. 

Estrada says one challenge is getting back on track after COVID-19 and helping businesses to recover by providing whatever resources AABA can offer. 

“The district is not just about businesses. It is also about the community,” says Estrada. 

Owners support the community by not laying off their workers, and Estrada does not think this is being recognized enough. Some businesses have been operating a long time. For example, The Duck Taphouse and Grill has been running since 1996, while Plaza Bowling Co. next door is a family business that has been operating since 1959.

Estrada says he wants to help businesses as much as he can, and one way is by helping them navigate grant applications from the City so that they can continue to grow and thrive. He looks forward to the next time AABA throws a mixer for business owners to collaborate and talk to strengthen the community and continue to be a support for each other. “We really want to see the value for our businesses as well!”

In order to get to a better position for businesses in the area, Estrada acknowledges a need to address current issues such as crime and abandoned or neglected businesses. “I am very passionate about making change in the area and I think there is so much potential for the area, and working really well together with community, police, fire fighters (etc.), to ensure good changes can happen here.”

He adds, “It is hard for businesses who pay a tax levy while those who have the cash can sit on an empty building and do nothing about it, and it shows they do not care about the business community.”

There are businesses allegedly running criminal activity in the district too. The association is working with property owners to get these businesses out of the area, but it is a long process involving the police and the City.  Having a police liaison, AABA works with the Edmonton Police Service to advocate for businesses. “Businesses care about the street and Alberta Avenue, but sometimes the support is not available to keep the streets safe and clean.” Estrada says this is another challenge in attracting anyone from the outside of the district to explore Alberta Avenue and its businesses. He looks forward to the challenge.