Situated in Central Alberta, Strathcona County is a blend of urban and rural environments. This specialized municipality is known as Canada’s Energy Engine, and offers the best in housing, education, and a safe community to raise a family.
Home to a population of 93,000, Strathcona County is a major economic and job centre as the home base of Alberta’s Industrial Heartland region, covering 75 per cent of Western Canada’s thriving refining industry. Strathcona County Mayor Linda Osinchuk, who also serves as Chair of the Industrial Heartland, spoke with The Canadian Business Journal this month about the economic surge occurring in this community east of the Edmonton.
“The Industrial Heartland is possibly Alberta’s best kept secret. It’s a conduit in the heart of Alberta from the heavy industry in Fort McMurray through to corporate Calgary,” Osinchuk said.
Alberta’s Industrial Heartland consists of five local municipalities – Strathcona County, Sturgeon County, Lamont County, the City of Fort Saskatchewan, and the City of Edmonton. Home to 42 different industries, Alberta’s Industrial Heartland most recently announced that Sasol Ltd. is considering the area for Canada’s first Gas to Liquid (GTL) plant that upgrade natural gas to diesel fuel. The addition would bring another 500 full-time jobs, as well as 5,000 construction jobs, to the area. Alberta’s Industrial Heartland is developing an Alberta energy strategy which will then lead to a national energy strategy.
Open for Business
Strathcona County offers a socioeconomic structure that invites families, businesses, and innovative risk takers to the community. Just like a major urban centre such as Edmonton, Strathcona County offers a competitive environment that is open for business and encourages business success.
What serves as a distinct advantage for Strathcona County is that it offers local businesses a licensing-free environment. In Strathcona County, businesses can focus on their bottom line, rather than how to compete in a bureaucratic regulatory environment. It is reasons such as this as to why MoneySense magazine ranked Strathcona County as Canada’s No. 1 place for jobs and to raise a family, and why Strathcona County has grown by more than 12 per cent over the past five years.
Strathcona County’s best practices continue to attract national and international investment within the community. Strathcona County has implemented effective policies and economic measures that drive business growth and job creation, as well as residential growth.
“We’re looking at job creation, environment standards and stewardship. We engage our public and interface with our stakeholders, and therefore reduce the social acceptance issues,” Mayor Osinchuk summarized. “Revenues coming into our municipality help lower taxes to our own residents.”
Todd Banks, Executive Director at Sherwood Park & District Chamber of Commerce, added, “We understand that we either grow our business community and keep taxes low, or we lose business and raise property taxes for residents. We’d rather grow business in our community and be competitive.”
To further drive growth for businesses and local job creation, Strathcona County is working with partners from industry and education to establish an Academy Centre of Excellence to connect residents with job training and local opportunities. The centre will serve as an entry hub to community businesses and partners.
Sustainable Urban Neighbourhoods
Aside from Alberta’s Industrial Heartland, Strathcona County’s development industry is also thriving. Several projects are underway with local builders, including the Emerald Hills Urban Village project. The project was the pilot for applying the Sustainable Urban Neighbourhood (SUN) model to consider the social, environmental and economic elements for developing a sustainable neighbourhood.
Strathcona County is developing mixed-use communities as an alternative to traditional bedroom neighbourhoods that offer residents combined opportunities to live, work, and play. The Emerald Hills Urban Village development will combine residential and commercial opportunities, and provide unique community amenities in a central open space area.
“When developing neighbourhoods, we look at the natural features on site, like wetlands and creeks that create great infrastructure for parks and trail systems, places for people to enjoy where they are living and working,” said Sarah Feldman, Coordinator, Sustainable Infrastructure and Planning, with Strathcona County. “The philosophy of sustainable neighbourhoods is about finding more within walking distance from your home, from stores, to recreational facilities, to parks, and looking at quality of life in a more holistic sense. We’re providing many more amenities to our residents.”
Mayor Osinchuk added, “We’re cognizant of sustainable developments. We’ve just finished our Economic Sustainability Framework, and we continue to consider environmental, social, and cultural initiatives. Considering all aspects of sustainability enables us to bring the best practices to bear on our decisions, and attract people with business and jobs [to our community].”
Strathcona County, together with the Sherwood Park & District Chamber of Commerce, also promotes involvement of local businesses in the green economy and creative industries.
Quality of life in Strathcona County is evident in the entrepreneurial spirit of the community. Strathcona County is a family oriented community that offers all the amenities and plenty of growth opportunities.
“The movers and shakers come to our area to raise a family and to push their innovativeness forward,” Mayor Osinchuk said. “They also want a quality of life that promotes hope and longevity for their family and their own future investment.”
What’s next for Strathcona? Further growth and business integration are on the horizon as the community continues to investigate greater local opportunities, particularly the agro-business and innovative technology sectors. As Mayor Osinchuk concluded, “We’re always looking outside the box. We’re looking at transportation … We have a transit centre opening next year which will be a hub for people coming to Strathcona County. We’re making sure that moving forward we are the community of choice for industry and for raising a family.”