The new Small Community Opportunity Program provides grants between $20,000 and $100,000 for Indigenous and small communities, and the non-profits they work with, to build capacity in agriculture, local economic development and small business supports. The program will provide up to $3 million per year in 2023-24 and 2024-25 to further implement the Economic Development in Rural Alberta Plan.
Indigenous and small communities are vital to Alberta and to the province’s long-term economic prosperity. The Small Community Opportunity Program gives them the financial backing to tackle challenges and tap into opportunities to grow their local economic footprint.
Learn more and find out how to apply: Small Community Opportunity Program
The Economic Development in Rural Alberta Plan sets out a 5-year commitment that guides rural economic growth, reflecting on innovation, diversification, and sustainable, long-term economic development. The plan outlines 5 strategic directions, each of which connects to supporting initiatives already underway as well as new actions we are taking to ensure rural Albertans have economic opportunities where they live.
Rural Albertans and Indigenous community members helped inform the plan by sharing their perspectives on the successes, challenges and opportunities of rural economic development.
Together, we are working toward the vision that Alberta’s rural community is resilient, innovative and prosperous, providing sustainable economic opportunities for individuals, families, businesses and visitors.
Economic Development in Rural Alberta Plan
The plan's 5 strategic directions and corresponding initiatives and actions will support capacity building in the key areas of entrepreneurship, skills development, small business supports, marketing rural and Indigenous communities, promoting tourism, and rural economic development interconnectivity at the regional level.
Review the highlights of the 5 strategic directions below or read the full plan.
Strategic direction 1: Economic development-enabling infrastructure
Identify and improve power, water, telecommunications and transportation networks to support investment and growth in rural Alberta.
- Irrigation Infrastructure Investment expands and modernizes Alberta’s irrigation infrastructure through an investment in irrigation infrastructure of almost $933 million in partnership with 10 irrigation districts.
- Alberta Broadband Strategy makes reliable, affordable, high-speed internet a reality in rural, remote and Indigenous communities through a $390 million investment over the next 4 years
- First Nations Regional Drinking Water Tie-in Project committed $100 million to provide reliable access to clean drinking water to 14 Indigenous communities.
- Strategic Transportation Infrastructure Program is spending $31.5 million over the next year on transportation infrastructure for rural and smaller urban municipalities as part of a $103.4 million investment over 3 years.
- Building Forward: Alberta’s 20-Year Strategic Capital Plan takes a province-wide view to help government navigate its way through the challenges and opportunities facing our province over the next 2 decades, ensuring we will have the right infrastructure in place to support Alberta’s future.
- Alberta’s Provincial Construction Program outlines major highway, bridge and water management projects scheduled over the next 3 years.
- Alberta Municipal Water/Wastewater Partnership and the Water for Life program provide eligible municipalities cost-shared funding for water supply and treatment facilities, and wastewater disposal and treatment facilities.
New actions we're taking
- Ensuring all of Alberta has broadband service availability by 2026 and supports are in place to provide digital literacy training.
- Building on work to further develop transportation corridors to maximize economic development opportunities.
- Providing permanent, predictable funding for a wide range of infrastructure by replacing the Municipal Sustainability Initiative with the Local Government Fiscal Framework in 2024.
Strategic direction 2: Rural business supports and entrepreneurship
Increase access to supports for entrepreneurship and small business capacity to help grow a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship across rural Alberta.
- Alberta Advantage Immigration Program Rural Renewal and Rural Entrepreneur Streams attract and support skilled newcomers with global skills and talent to help diversify the economy and create jobs.
- THRIVE Canada Accelerator supports early-stage startups whose technologies help drive towards a more efficient, sustainable and secure agriculture future.
- Forest Jobs Action Plan awards timber rights to companies across northern Alberta through a request for proposal process that requires specific benefits to local rural communities including Indigenous communities.
- Results Driven Agriculture Research promotes economic development through research and innovation. Its mandate is to target strategic investments in producer-led agriculture research to power the competitiveness, profitability, productivity and sustainability of agriculture in Alberta.
- Workforce Partnership grants support labour market research, workforce strategy development and local hiring events.
- Energy Savings for Business helps eligible Alberta businesses reduce emissions, decrease operating costs, grow their operations and become more competitive, while creating skilled jobs and boosting economic growth.
New actions we're taking
- Establishing new targets and updating the Alberta Agri-Food Investment and Growth Strategy.
- Supporting rural entrepreneurship training and leadership development in rural Alberta through collaboration with key partners.
- Leveraging changes to the Rural Utilities Act enabling rural electrification associations to capitalize on rural economic development opportunities through innovation and business development.
Strategic direction 3: Support for labour force and skills development
Enable skills development to enhance rural workforce capacity to support community services such as health, education and business.
- Alberta 2030: Building Skills for Jobs is a 10-year strategy for post-secondary education in Alberta that will transform the adult learning system to focus on providing the high quality education, skills and training needed for Alberta’s future.
- Alberta’s Health Workforce Strategy includes new approaches for rural and remote care delivery and surgical staffing, supported by a $90 million investment to attract and retain rural physicians.
- Rural Health Professions Action Plan is a rural community health workforce attraction and retention resource, an ally with Alberta’s medical schools, and a trusted, collaborative partner for rural Alberta communities to achieve greater access to health care.
- Rural Education Supplement and Integrated Doctor Experience (RESIDE) Program addresses challenges in patient access to physicians and health services in rural and remote areas of the province by supporting new-in-practice physicians to explore living and working in rural Alberta.
- Employment Partnerships Program provides funding for Indigenous skills and employment training programs that connect Indigenous peoples to meaningful employment opportunities.
- Training for work programs help Albertans gain skills in order to find work, improve their employment situation and increase their ability to cope with changing labour market conditions. The program has invested $25.9 million in more than 55 urban and rural communities across Alberta.
- Stronger Foundations affordable housing strategy is helping Albertans get more access to affordable housing through a $55 million investment over 3 years by Alberta’s government.
New actions we're taking
- Leveraging Alberta’s library system to support knowledge transfer and skills development.
- Improving awareness of agriculture and agri-food related careers and support to attract and retain workers in rural Alberta.
Strategic direction 4: Marketing and promoting rural tourism
Enhance rural Alberta’s reputation and capacity as a diverse tourism destination through the development of new products and experiences, helping to attract and retain talent that supports other industries.
- The Film and Television Tax Credit offers a refundable Alberta tax credit certificate on eligible Alberta production and labour costs to corporations that produce films, television series and other eligible screen-based productions in the province.
- Travel Alberta’s destination marketing promotes rural Alberta and Indigenous communities.
- Alberta Open Farm Days is an incubator for agri-tourism and rural sustainability.
- Alberta Culture Days grants enable Indigenous and non-profit organizations like agricultural societies to organize arts and cultural activities that attract visitors to rural communities every September.
New actions we're taking
- Supporting Alberta’s rural visitor economy to ensure rural and indigenous communities are strong and vibrant with opportunities for employment and economic diversification.
Strategic direction 5: Rural economic development capacity building
Enhance rural economic development through regional and targeted capacity building.
- Alberta Agri-Food Investment and Growth Strategy set targets to attract $1.4 billion in investment by 2024 and create 2,000 jobs in the agri-food sector.
- Sustainable Canadian Agricultural Partnership provides a 5‐year (2023-2028) $3.5 billion investment by federal, provincial and territorial governments to strengthen the agricultural and agri‐food sector’s competitiveness, innovation and resiliency.
- Alberta Agri-processing Investment Tax Credit creates the right conditions to attract large-scale investments to grow the value-added agricultural industry and diversify the economy.
- Veterinary Medicine Program at the University of Calgary will receive $59 million in capital funding to double the number of seats in the program to address a critical shortage of large animal veterinarians in rural Alberta.
- Aboriginal Business Investment Fund can partially or completely fund capital costs for Indigenous community-owned economic development projects.
- Alberta Indigenous Opportunities Corporation was established in 2019 to facilitate investment by Indigenous groups in natural resources, agriculture, telecommunications or transportation sectors and related infrastructure.
- Innovation Employment Grant supports small and medium-sized businesses that invest in research and development with a grant worth up to 20% of qualifying expenditures.
- Climate Resilience Capacity Building Program provides $4.5 million for municipalities and Indigenous communities to assess adaptation measures and to create climate resilience plans.
- Rural economic capacity building grants provide $2.1 million to advance regional and targeted initiatives that will lead to sustainable rural economic development and diversification.
- Addressing the Agriculture Labour Task Force Grant Program is funded through a $2.5 million federal-provincial partnership to support producers, processors and industry organizations by improving awareness of agriculture and agri-food careers, and providing training and supports to recruit, hire and retain workers in the industry.
- Public Library Grant for Skill Development in Rural Alberta allocates $200,000 to public library boards in rural areas to help strengthen their services and programs to support communities in becoming resilient and sustainable.
- Northern and Regional Economic Development Program funds initiatives led by Alberta municipalities, Indigenous communities and non-profit organizations that promote regional economic development and diversification.
- Small Community Opportunity Program provides grants between $20,000 and $100,000 for Indigenous and small communities, and the non-profits they work with, to build capacity in agriculture, local economic development and small business supports.
New actions we're taking
- Invest Alberta partnering with local economic development agencies to drive increased foreign direct investment to rural Alberta.
- Continuing collaboration with and investment in Regional Economic Development Alliances.
- Working with all partners to further develop capacity building and mentorship programming targeted to rural and Indigenous community needs, and developing a regional policy approach to rural economic development capacity building.
- Building up the rural Alberta economy (December 14, 2022)