The Alberta government is providing an opportunity for communities to access $30 million over two years to diversify and grow their economies.
The funding is part of the Alberta Jobs Plan and will help pay for locally developed projects that promote long-term economic growth and diversification. Economic Development Minister Deron Bilous says the focus will be on projects that communities and municipalities couldn’t fund on their own. “How can we strengthen this region to be more competitive, to encourage businesses from the ground up but as well to attract investment dollars. So, this is essentially that seed funding, or funding to help communities come together.” Bilous says the hope is to strengthen regions, not just single communities. “Partnerships are absolutely critical. Even within our municipalities we’re constantly encouraging them to work together and this funding is going to help them do that.”
About $26.5 million will go towards communities, regions, municipalities and other organizations. The Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo will receive $750,000 to support the Back to Business Resource Centre and business recovery expos in Fort McMurray. The rest of the money will go to Regional Economic Development Alliances and four Rural Alberta Business Centres.
A community facing a huge economic shakeup as a result of provincial government policy change says the new economic support money from the government will help it prepare for the future.
Jay Slemp is Chair of the Palliser Economic Partnership, an area which includes the town of Hanna which faces shutdown of its coal mine and power plant. Slemp says people would like the plant to remain open, but failing that, they need a plan to move forward. “It takes ten years or it takes five years to get these things to happen sometimes. How do you get an opportunity? Where are you going to pursue? Where are you going to look? As a community? So, we’re looking at strategic plans. We want to know what the impact is and then we want to know what’s the game plan going forward.”
Slemp says it won’t be easy and it won’t be guaranteed but if they do nothing, nothing will happen. He says Albertans are in charge of their own future. “It’s not always the strongest that survive. It’s those that are able to adapt. We live in times of change. Change is not always what we like. But the people that adapt and how do we help them adapt–that’s pretty critical to our success.”
Applications for grants can be made through the new Community and Regional Economic Support program online starting in October.