Smoky River Regional
The province is divided into about a dozen economic regions.
There is no real rationale for how the regions evolved other than the municipalities in an area determined what their region would look like. These regions were ultimately called alliances and today there are about 11 of them across the province.
The Smoky region belongs to the Peace Region Economic Development Alliance or PREDA as it is affectionately referred to. PREDA is made up of about 28 municipalities in northwest Alberta.
In addition to municipalities, PREDA’s membership includes several industry members, two colleges, and two community futures.
PREDA is, in land mass, the largest alliance in the province. It operates on membership fees and a grant from the government. PREDA like the other alliances has the freedom to deliver programs to its members, per the desire of the members. Some alliances focus heavily on tourism, others on marketing and PREDA focuses on economic development.
PREDA has an executive of six municipal representatives and most recently Smoky’s own, Marc Bremont, served on the board.
Marc did a great job representing the region and I have always liked working with Marc. I may not always agree with him, but I certainly know where he stands on an issue.
Four times a year there is a membership meeting and from those meetings the executive determine what direction or projects PREDA will pursue. For 2017 they are taking on a project that should have great benefit for the region. PREDA is working on a project that will look at what commodities are grown, mined, and forested in the region, how it is shipped out of the region, to where it is shipped and what is its end use. The study has a number of purposes.
PREDA wants to get an inventory of what all is produced in the region over all as well as in each area. This will allow PREDA and each of its municipalities to get a snapshot of what we produce. PREDA wants to know how the products are transported, whether that be road or rail and where is its ultimate destination.
This would give PREDA an idea of where are primary markets are. Additionally, PREDA wants to know what the product is ultimately used for.
So what is the purpose of all this information? Well to give an example, if we know our region produces a lot of hemp and we know it is shipped to Manitoba where it is used to produce textiles, or perhaps China where the make hemp hearts for human consumption we can look at opportunities to create a small scale local operation.
We know as an example the Smoky region produces the best honey in the world. For many years that honey was shipped out of the region with no local manufacturing or processing. That has of course changed in the last few years and we are fortunate to have Smoky region honey on store shelves around the province and country. PREDA wants to know what other opportunities exist out there for our municipalities.
It may seem like a lot of work, after all don’t we have a pretty good idea of what we already produce? Yes, we do. But to attract developers and new investment in the region, we need to have the facts and the hope is this work will provide us the data investors are looking for.
The transportation component of the study is meant to help municipalities and industry advocate for improved transportation corridors. Right now, if you want to ship something by rail from St. Isidore to Grande Prairie you need to go through Edmonton.
Transportation challenges and costs are a great detriment to our area in creating value-added products.
While this study won’t solve the problem it will help define the problem and hopefully provide some guidance in how to fix it.