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Small Business

The Municipal District of Big Lakes incorporated as a municipality on January 1, 1995 and formally changed its name to Big Lakes County by Order in Council on March 6, 2015.  Located approximately 250 km north west of Edmonton and 200 km east of Grande Prairie, the County is centrally situated in Alberta and is positioned to take advantage of the abundant natural resources which bless the region.  Forestry, agriculture, oil, gas, recreation and tourism, it's all here!

Thinking of starting a small business in the County??  Here are some of the most common questions people often ask.

  1. Do I need a business license?
  2. Do I need any permits from the municipality?
  3. Is the business (use) permitted under the County’s land use bylaw (LUB)?
  4. What other permits/approvals may I need?

First, the County does not issue business licenses.  Certain businesses may require a provincial license/permit.  You may contact a local licensing agent or contact Corporate Registry at 427-2311.  Second, the County’s land use bylaw requires all developments to be issued a valid development permit prior to commencing a “use” or changing an existing “use” unless the “use” is specifically exempted in the bylaw.  Other types of new businesses likely require a development permit (it is best to check with the County as early as possible to avoid unnecessary delays).  Thirdly, certain developments may require an amendment to the land use district in the LUB to accommodate the proposal.  Applications must be submitted to the County office for proposed amendments to the land use bylaw.  An amendment to the LUB requires a public hearing be held to provide adjacent landowners an opportunity to support or oppose an application.

Many people confuse development permits and building permits.  In general, a development permit authorizes the development or the “use” of land whereas a building permits ensures that any structures placed on the land comply with the Alberta Building Code.  Building permits are required for construction and/or renovations of buildings.  Building, electrical, plumbing, gas, and private sewage permits must be obtained from Superior Safety Codes Inc. at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 1-866-999-4777.

Fourth, depending on the type of business and proposed location, permits may be required from other government agencies such as Alberta Health Services if you're planning on having food service;  Alberta Transportation if your development is within 300 metres of a primary highway right-of-way boundary or within 800 metres of the point of an intersection of primary highway with another public road (Roadside Development Permit);  Alberta Environment and Parks also has an interest if a development may have an impact on the environment.

Ample opportunity exists for entrepreneurs to start and prosper with a small business located in Big Lakes County.  Growth in the local and provincial economy has left many businesses and industry in short supply of skilled persons to service their needs.  Tourism is also a fast growing market in the region as the number of visitors to Lesser Slave Lake increases year after year.  Opportunities exist in almost every aspect of the tourism industry.  Possibilities include developed campsites with trails, eating facilities, indoor accommodations, guided tours and outfitting, ecotourism, birding and quaint bed-and-breakfast operations to name a few.

Although the County is primarily an agricultural community, increased activity in natural resource sectors is placing a strain on service companies to meet current industry demands.  Between 1991 and 1995, industrial activity accounted for 93% of the building value in the County.  Opportunities exist for small entrepreneurs, tradesmen and service companies located in the area to supply their services to the growing region. West Fraser (formerly Buchanan Lumber) and several smaller private sawmills are situated in close proximity to the Town of High Prairie.  Other major industrial developments include Swan Hills waste treatment facility and three large sour gas plants located near Swan Hills.

Current trends indicate small business will provide the stimulus for economic growth in the foreseeable future. Council for the Big Lakes County supports and encourages the establishment of small business.  The County adopted their first Municipal Development Plan in 2011 which accommodates and encourages minor and major home occupations and small scale industrial pursuits.

If you are interested in starting a small business, Northern Lakes College in High Prairie offers numerous courses related to small business or contact the Lesser Slave Lake Community Development Corporation for help and information regarding small business loans, business planning and marketing. For additional municipal information, contact the County office, 780-523-5955, fax 780-523-4227 or e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .