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Rural Alberta is a driving force in the economy and the new Economic Development in Rural Alberta Plan will complement current government initiatives while supporting diversification and job opportunities in rural communities.
The five-year plan focuses on key issues in rural Alberta, including economic development-enabling infrastructure, rural business supports and entrepreneurship, support for labour force and skills development, marketing and promoting rural tourism, and rural economic development capacity building.
“Rural Albertans face unique economic barriers and challenges that require a different approach than their urban neighbours. The Economic Development in Rural Alberta Plan charts a path forward that will address these issues and build on our commitment in Budget 2022 to support sustainable growth and diversification in rural Alberta.”
As one of the first tangible actions under the plan, the government has committed $125,000 to each of the nine regional economic development alliances to support long-term economic prosperity in their respective regions.
“With strengths in oil and gas, agriculture and forestry, tourism and emerging technologies, Alberta’s rural and northern communities are the backbone of our province’s economy. Actions identified in this plan will benefit rural and northern Albertans for years to come, including providing additional support to Alberta’s network of regional economic development alliances to fuel further economic growth and prosperity across our province.”
Engaging with rural Albertans
The plan was created after a year of consultations. Beginning in fall 2021, Alberta’s government held targeted sessions with rural Alberta businesses and communities, in addition to Indigenous communities, to identify the specific challenges and possible solutions facing their regions.
In total, government hosted 23 virtual engagement sessions with more than 370 rural Albertans, businesses and communities, receiving 3,500 comments. At the same time, an online survey was conducted, which received an additional 919 responses.
Feedback from the sessions and the online survey helped develop the plan’s vision, guiding principles and strategic directions. These were refined and validated through a second phase of targeted engagement with the same individuals and groups in summer 2022.
“Regional economic development alliances are strategically structured to collaborate with governments to address key issues in rural Alberta. Our first step is to identify and improve economic development and enable infrastructure to support investment and growth in rural Alberta. Once we initiate this step, we can further support rural businesses, increase the labour force and market a stronger rural Alberta to Canada and the rest of the world. We look forward to moving forward with the Economic Development in Rural Alberta Plan and continued collaboration with the Government of Alberta.”
“As a leading advocate for our province’s towns and villages, Alberta Municipalities is pleased to see the provincial government focus on the unique needs of Alberta’s smaller and more remote communities. We welcome efforts to grow and diversify our province’s economy, including renewed support for regional economic development alliances.”
“For well over a century the Rural Municipalities of Alberta has helped rural municipalities achieve strong, effective, local government. The Economic Development in Rural Alberta Plan supports our mission to strengthen rural Alberta and cultivate strategic and collaborative partnerships. This plan starts today and is designed for the rural Alberta of tomorrow.”
- The plan focuses on five key strategic directions:
- Identifying and improving economic development-enabling infrastructure to support investment and growth in rural Alberta.
- Advancing entrepreneurship capacity and a culture of innovation across rural Alberta.
- Enabling skills development in rural communities to enhance workforce capacity today and for the future.
- Enhancing rural Alberta’s reputation and capacity as a diverse tourism destination.
- Enhancing rural economic development through regional and targeted capacity building.
- The plan will complement a number of initiatives that demonstrate the government’s commitment to building healthy and prosperous communities across rural Alberta, including:
- Up to $390 million over four years as part of the Alberta Broadband Strategy to eliminate the digital divide for all Albertans.
- Nearly $933 million for irrigation infrastructure in partnership with nine irrigation districts to expand and modernize Alberta’s irrigation infrastructure.
- $78 million to fund 133 active capital maintenance and renewal projects in rural Alberta communities.
- A $59-million investment to expand veterinary medicine at the University of Calgary, doubling the number of seats in the program to address a critical shortage of large animal veterinarians in rural Alberta.
- $70 million for the Film and Television Tax Credit that will attract major productions to the province, diversifying the economy and creating thousands of new jobs.
- More than $8 million through the Indigenous Opportunities Corporation to support Indigenous communities’ participation in commercially viable resource projects to support rural economic growth.