Red Deer’s expected withdrawal from the Central Alberta Economic Partnership (CAEP) does not signal that the City is turning its back on regional economic development, according to the councillor who prompted the anticipated exodus.
“We do so many other initiatives with so many of our neighbours,” said Councillor Lawrence Lee.
“We touch base with them on so many things whether it’s the urgent care centre in Sylvan Lake, a multiplex in Penhold, an agricultural operation in the County or Lacombe. We have all those initiatives that we still will continue to do.”
It was during budget deliberations that council approved its 2017 membership fee, but also passed a motion to give one year’s notice to withdraw from the regional economic development alliance.
The City’s membership costs $39,933 — calculated at 40 cents per capita.
Instead, the City wants to work with CAEP on a per-project basis.
CAEP is a regional economic development alliance consisting of more than 40 municipal members and associate members, originally formed to present one voice on behalf of municipalities to the provincial government. Altogether, the organization represents 300,000 people in the region.
Formal notice has not yet been received, said CAEP Chair Patricia MacQuarrie, but she’s looking forward to a continued relationship with the City of Red Deer, even if she doesn’t know what that will look like yet.
“We’re always in conversations with the City of Red Deer so over the next year, we’ll be having conversations about what potential opportunities are there in the future for working with them,” MacQuarrie said.
Even without the City, the organization will go on, she added.
“We still have a partnership of about 200,000 people in our municipalities,” she said.
Lee said talk about exiting CAEP has been ongoing as the City started to do more of its economic development planning in-house, focusing on Red Deer’s interests, such as sports tourism and downtown redevelopment.
“We have now allocated our own resources and staff to handle those because we have very specific projects: Riverlands and now the revitalization of downtown strategy, those types of things we’re trying to capitalize on,” he said.
“We absolutely want to keep our ties with CAEP in terms of any support we can lend them on a project-specific basis.”
MacQuarrie said CAEP’s work is about, “Empowering communities in their own economic development activities.”
One example of that is gathering statistics and generating reports on economic indicators. That data is available to members or can be provided to investors.
A current project is www.investcentralalberta.ca. It’s a map-based program that lists all industrial and commercial properties for sale in the region.
But it’s more than an inventory of what site selectors can choose from on behalf of industry.
MacQuarrie said the program taps into a municipality’s GIS (geographic information system), allowing users to narrow their searches.
“The data layers within the program are extensive. If somebody’s looking for a piece of land, they can put a variety of different parameters into the program to see what kind of demographics are in the area.”