Economic Development Lethbridge
Economic Development Lethbridge, an independent economic development organization supporting the City of Lethbridge, is led by a 25-member Board of Directors and CEO Cheryl Dick. The organization works to promote and attract Canadian business to this thriving city in southern Alberta.
Diverse across several sectors, the organization focuses on grassroots economic development that aligns with the local and regional community priorities and strengths. Economic Development Lethbridge also promotes the city as a host for conventions, conferences, sporting events, and more, described as “one of those interesting little cities” that provides good value for your meeting dollar.
Economic Development Lethbridge focuses on “cluster development”, a strategic focus on strong industry sectors in the local area, forming initiatives to further sector growth and to continue attracting more business to Alberta and Lethbridge.
Complementary energy production
The core initiative of Economic Development Lethbridge is attracting business to Lethbridge. It’s interesting to note that, unlike most of Alberta, the City of Lethbridge does not have heavy involvement in the province’s traditional oil and gas sector. Rather, what is booming in Lethbridge is the opportunities in renewable energy, creating a strong balance in Alberta’s energy portfolio.
The Lethbridge landscape is rich with wind farms, the development of a bio-diesel plant, as well as a new waste-to-energy plant that is under construction. Economic Development Lethbridge promotes and elevates awareness of this unique piece of Alberta’s energy sector.
Among the most economically diverse regions in all of Alberta, Lethbridge has also seen a recent focus on technological advancement, particularly a recent industry merger between technology and agriculture. Precision agriculture, as one example, involves a farming management concept using satellite images and satellite technology in assisting farmers to maximize crop yields and land productivity.
Several high-tech companies operate in Lethbridge, including those in renewable energy, technology diversification, to governmental research, as well as research from the local university and college.
“There are just so many assets here in a broad range of ways that it is a different market than people typically expect when they look in Alberta,” Dick said.
“One of the key ways that [Economic Development Lethbridge] fits in is that we have a lower cost structure that many of the communities driven by the oil and gas sector.”
As a result, Economic Development Lethbridge is achieving its goal as many companies are shifting their operations to Lethbridge in order to reap these economic and business benefits. Even for those companies involved in the oil and gas sector, some have located their operational base in Lethbridge, and then make the feasible move to simply ship their materials north to the oil sands of Fort McMurray, Alta.
Technological advancement is evident in Lethbridge through BlackBridge, a global leader of geospatial mapping technology. Co-locating in Lethbridge at the new Technology Commercialization Centre, the “beauty” of BlackBridge being located in Lethbridge is that the company has grown in the area, with connections to the local University of Lethbridge as well as Lethbridge College.
The Technology Commercialization Centre allows Economic Development Lethbridge to connect with other high-tech companies, while the organization also has methods in place to promote growth of these companies in Lethbridge. Such partnerships have been a key reason for technological growth and opportunities throughout the city. The emergence of the technology sector is something that Economic Development Lethbridge expects to only continue in the future.
The city recently hosted two industry roundtables discussing the local economy and the desire for business retention and expansion. Businesses in Lethbridge understand the opportunities that exist, as well as the upcoming opportunities on the horizon, in addition to the barriers and challenges of business. Economic Development Lethbridge uses this analysis in developing its initiatives to further local business capacity.
And unlike the eastern part of the nation, economic challenges of the recession were mostly foreign in Alberta, and the same can be said about Lethbridge. Lethbridge is consistent, stable, and continues to grow. In terms of population, the city is growing by more than two per cent a year and is now home to more than 80,000 citizens.
Additionally, a recent poll by MoneySense magazine ranked Lethbridge as the 25th best city (of 190 ranked) in Canada in which to live. Another survey ranked Lethbridge seventh-best nationwide when it comes to finding employment. Dick commented, “8 of the top 10 cities in that ranking are in Alberta and yet we don’t have that primary oil and gas driver. I think that is a credit to the diversity and the kind of industry we have here. We came through the recession as strong and as well as any community in Canada.”
Lethbridge is the “little gem” that takes advantage of economic opportunities, while still growing in a manageable and sustainable sense. The Board of Directors of Economic Development Lethbridge is highly interested in balance growth and prosperity, particularly in helping creating a good quality of life mixed with a prosperous community.
Another initiative, the formation of Team Lethbridge, is a collaboration of 17 local organizations working together to raise awareness that Lethbridge is a strong contributor to the national economy.
Dick stressed the importance of small- and mid-sized cities. “These cities across the country need to be taken quite seriously in terms of the opportunity and the strength that they bring. Governments and organizations can get focused on major centres because there is so much growth, and also because of the challenges that exist there, but in terms of balance and opportunity right across the country, I think cities like Lethbridge should be better researched, better understood, and supported.
“Lethbridge gives a balance of quality of life with business capacity that is a great asset for our country.”