By Alberta Newspaper Group
Lethbridge and area is poised for a major influx of federal dollars following the announcement of a new PrairiesCan office in the city on Thursday.
Dignitaries celebrated the new service location in the city along with federal investments in southern Alberta. The new PrairiesCan office will be located in that city’s historic downtown post office, intended to allow local entrepreneurs, municipalities, community organizations, and more the opportunity to access these services.
Dan Vandal, federal Minister for PrairiesCan, officially unveiled the new service location and outlined a range of economic development initiatives in various sectors to bolster jobs and growth in the region.
Some $11.2 million will be invested into Lethbridge area organizations and communities to enhance economic development on the Prairies.
As part of the launch, Vandal announced funding for 18 projects, which will help toward supporting 230 jobs.
“It is all part of our strategic plan that we adopted last year for Prairies Canada. The first thing we wanted to do was more outreach, part of that was opening at least two more offices in every prairie province,” said Vandal. “The whole idea is to get out there to talk to people, to talk to businesses, to non-profits, and to make sure they understand and are aware of the supports that we can give to all of the above.”
Funding is being provided through several PrairiesCan programs, including the Community Economic Development and Diversification (CEDD) program, the Regional Innovation Ecosystems (RIE) program, the Tourism Relief Fund (TRF) and the Canada Community Revitalization Fund (CCRF). The combined $11,254,654 investment in Lethbridge should provide more opportunities for growth.
Projects receiving the support include Lethbridge College, receiving over $2 million to establish an agriculture innovation centre.
The University of Lethbridge is receiving over $1.4 million to establish a centre of expertise, as well as $868,300 to establish a work integrated learning centre for Indigenous youth.
The Alberta Sugar Beet Growers in Taber will receive over $242,000 to evaluate new market opportunities for industry growth. Lethbridge and District Exhibition is receiving over $3.5 million to install and provide state-of-the art digitization of the Lethbridge Agri-Food and Trade Centre. And the Galt Museum is receiving $75,000 to re-purpose an under-utilized space to create an outdoor audio/visual interpretive display for local artwork and exhibitions.
“It’s been in the cards for the last year,” said Vandal. “Organizations make applications for the different funding envelopes that we do have, and these applications are analyzed by public officials and then they are recommended for approval. … These are the approved projects this morning, they have been serving Lethbridge area very well for many years, and there is going to be a lot of positive outputs because of that.”
The TRF will support tourism businesses, with $4,378,610 going towards four projects: Alberta Birds of Prey Foundation receiving $500,000, Lethbridge and District Exhibition receiving $3,513,611, Little Gem Winery Ltd. receiving $99,999, and Tourism Lethbridge receiving $265,000.
“It is the largest investment of the tourism relief fund in the Prairie region, and in all of Canada. We are exceptionally excited about that. It is for three very specific programs for our building,” said Mike Warkentin, CEO for Lethbridge and District Exhibition. “It is for our active networking within the building, … Second is the audiovisual system, which gives us a significant competitive advantage over our competitors, … and the third piece is the revolutionizing of our kitchen and our culinary campus on site.”
The RIE program will see five funded projects for $4,778,150. Alberta Sugar Beet Growers Association will receive $242,838, Lethbridge College is receiving $2,092,012, St. Mary River Irrigation District is receiving $85,000, and the University of Lethbridge is receiving $868,300 as well as another $1,495,000 for another project.
“The funding we are receiving today is going to help in so many ways,” said Brad Donaldson, president of the College. “From an applied research perspective we are helping to grow the economy of southern Alberta’s agricultural capability.”