Commentary – By working together, we may grow rural regions stronger

Richard Froese

Spring returns March 20 as most people wait for the warmer weather and days with longer daylight to get out and about.

Many people see spring as a time to expect new life, change, a fresh start, a brighter future.

After almost a year of restrictions and lockdowns in the COVID-19 pandemic, people want to focus on the future.

The road to recovery will likely include change. Partnerships will be a key component of change for a stronger future.

For some, change will include steps to amalgamate organizations.

Could it also include smaller rural municipalities join forces, especially after the effects of the economic downturn and COVID-19?

Off the record, one local mayor says some municipalities won’t survive.

New seed has been planted by chambers of commerce based in Falher and McLennan to move forward to better serve local businesses and the communities.

Leaders of the Smoky River Regional Chamber of Commerce and the McLennan and District Chamber of Commerce have a plan to form one regional chamber to benefit the entire region.

Regional partnerships and amalgamation are becoming more vital in small rural areas as population and the number of businesses decline.

Now more than ever, as businesses and communities strive to rebound after COVID-19, it’s important that local groups co-operate.

United we stand, divided we fall!

Moving forward, it’s important to have stronger unified organizations. Several years ago, the NDP provincial government promoted partnerships at the municipal level to strengthen small rural regions.

The so-called Smoky River region requires one strong chamber.

Some people would say it’s probably long overdue for the two chambers of commerce to become one.

The column writer remembers when amalgamation was discussed back around 2005 when he was the president of the Falher and Area Chamber of Commerce.

It’s also a numbers game for community organizations, such as the chamber of commerce. As the population and number of businesses in the region fall, small chambers also have fewer members to sustain a small organization. One strong chamber of commerce for the Smoky River region will have more power than two smaller chambers that struggle.

What’s good for one community in the region is good for the whole region.

Let’s all work together to build our rural small communities. Building businesses helps build community and a viable future.

Time and commitment from volunteers is the big challenge. It seems that the number of dedicated volunteers is declining, which makes it difficult for organizations in local communities to effectively serve their mandate.

Where organizations with similar mandates in the same region can merge, it will help everyone.

A similar situation is occurring at a neighbouring region to the east. The High Prairie and Area Chamber of Commerce is attempting to hold its first regular meeting since early 2020.

Meanwhile, efforts are being made to revive the High Prairie and Area Business Support Network [BSN] that functioned from February 2017 to February 2018.

Last August, representatives from Community Futures Slave Lake Region and the High Prairie regional office of Alberta Labour and Immigration initiated steps to facilitate the process.

Many people think that both groups serve such similar roles and both can’t work in tandem.

Whatever the community or organization is, press on to a positive future where the future flourishes.

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