Looking back at the Smoky River region in 2016, and looking forward

Dan Dibbelt
Smoky River Regional
Economic Development
Well another year has come and gone. A year later we are all a bit older, a bit greyer and I hope a bit happier. Economic development does not happen overnight, but rather is a culmination of work done over the years. The year 2016 has been an evolving one in the region.

Perhaps the most obvious change in the region is a result of the drop in the price of oil and with that the loss of many oilfield jobs. Along with the jobs we have seen a reduction in oil activity, probably most notable is the slowdown in the movement of oil.

The local oil on rail facility is closed and local truck drivers hauling oil have seen their work drop drastically. Early in the year we toured a group of people from India to check out that site as well as a couple others as a potential location for a value-added agriculture project.
Unfortunately, the downturn in the economy has led this group to put their plans on hold.

Diane was busy working with the Capital Investment Coop of Smoky River, an innovate group of members that are looking for local investment opportunities. This group has been working hard for a couple years and has looked at a variety of projects. Again, the downturn in the economy has slowed down any projects requiring investment.

We continue to work with developers to bring new housing to our region. Attracting employees, doctors and families requires housing, most importantly a variety of types of housing. This opportunity has slowed down. Our neighbours to the north in Northern Sunrise County saw their 2,500 man camp close down and earlier this year it was auctioned off. Less people coming to the region means of course less people looking for permanent housing solutions. We have developed an online business directory, thanks to much help from the municipal partners. It’s far from complete because many businesses work from home. It is hard to promote businesses you don’t know exists so I encourage you to register if you already haven’t.

We continue to work on some long-term projects such as Donnelly Corner. This work has been around for a while, but like all developments it takes the right economic climate to make it a success. Again the decline in oil activity has slowed this project down. Additionally there still needs to be some negotiations with Alberta Transportation to ensure adequate access to the site.

Diane continues to work with both the Chambers of Commerce and the Tourism Society. These organizations add economic opportunities to our region, but they are struggling. That being said, McLennan Chamber put on a very successful Home-based business trade show.

To that we held a couple great events in the region. Small Business Week we held a dinner featurting Persad panda, the Wildrose MLA responsible for economic development. The Alberta Treasury Branch was a great sponsor of the event that saw many businesses get together to talk about business.

During the summer, we hosted Minister Shannon Phillips, Environment Minister and Marg McCuaig-Boyd, Minister of Energy, for an afternoon session. More than 50 people gathered to hear the governments work plans for those ministries.

This year we have also been working on partnerships with Northern Lakes College, the Peace Region Community Futures, PREDA and many others.
Despite the economic downturn the region will persevere as we have done in the past, but it is important that we continue to work with our neighbors to reap those benefits.

The SRRED Board is an active board of dedicated individuals representing our communities. They could spend their time doing other things (probably a lot more fun than sitting at our board table), but choose to work at bring prosperity to our region. It’s a great group and they deserve thanks for their efforts.

With that we hope you had a Merry Christmas and all the best in 2017.

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