Town of Redwater
Comprised of a safe, growing and welcoming community of about 2,300 people (with a greater trading area of over 7,500 people), the town of Redwater, Alberta is known for its abundance of oil and booming construction industry. Aptly named after the nearby Redwater River, this growing town is four hours southwest of the oil sands of Fort McMurray, and just 30 minutes northeast of Edmonton via Highway 28. Redwater was surveyed and registered in 1906, and became a robust agricultural community.
This was until oil was first discovered in 1948, transforming it from a hamlet into a town by 1950. Redwater is now known for having the world’s largest oil derrick, and also for the strong, growing labour base it boasts.
Redwater is home to a blend of young families, mature working adults and retired seniors. Although the residents are diverse, what they share in common is the desire to live in a prosperous, family-oriented community that has urban amenities combined with a rural lifestyle. Those who want access to a larger city, desire shorter commutes to work and enjoy the benefit of a rural lifestyle, see Redwater as a natural choice.
The hub for employment
There is substantial growth in the industrial sector, whether it be in energy, manufacturing, agriculture, or retail. However, oil and construction are prime industries for Redwater. Redwater is located about five kilometres north of Alberta’s Industrial Heartland, the largest region for hydrocarbon processing in Canada and one of the most attractive oil and gas investment locations in the world. The Heartland has attracted over $30 billion in investments to date. Redwater is an associate member of Alberta’s Industrial Heartland Association (AIHA), a not-for-profit association comprised of the region’s municipalities interested in promoting sustainable, industrial development in the Heartland.
Redwater is also located in close proximity to the North West Redwater Partnership refinery, which offers numerous industrial and trades employment opportunities. Over the summer the refinery plans to have 3,500–5,000 employees on site; at present they have just over 2,000. Their current bitumen refinery project complements the goals of the Alberta Industrial Heartland for responsible development; it will produce cleaner end products in a cost-effective way, meeting Alberta’s growing demand as well as North America’s new low emission standards.
In addition to the refinery, Williams Energy Canada is undergoing major expansion of its Redwater base as well. All of these factors contribute to making Redwater a great employment centre. Furthermore, having numerous workers on-site at nearby industrial bases has encouraged Redwater to expand their own facilities and services in order to keep up with increasing demand.
“The majority of industry that’s related to our region is natural-gas based. There are many countries and many companies that are looking right now to invest in Alberta’s Industrial Heartland. This is the prime region in all of Canada,” says Mel Smith, the town’s mayor.
A busy year ahead for a booming town
“Although the oil and gas sector in general has shown a downturn in the economy, Redwater is actually thriving quite nicely. This is primarily because of the North West Redwater Partnership Refinery. They’re not slowing down at all,” says Economic Development Officer Pat Nicol.
Nicol also points out that the recent downturn in the oil and gas industry will actually create an increase in the labour force. Industrial and commercial development will bring new employment opportunities to Redwater, which in turn will bring an increase in new residents. As a community, Redwater is more than ready to take on the responsibility of being growth ready.
“People want to start building,” says Nicol.
Redwater benefits from being a hub of employment for northern Alberta, and this is evident through the town’s expansion. The developments Redwater will undergo this year are impressive for a community of its size. Currently there are three new residential developments in place. Two have already begun, the third will begin this spring. Also scheduled for spring is a new family restaurant. In the last 18 months, two new hotels have opened in the town, and two more hotel developments are scheduled for the summer of 2015. One is projected to have 180 rooms equipped with full suites facilities. A strip mall development is being proposed for the fall along the town’s highway commercial area. A 500-person camp in Redwater’s industrial area has also been approved.
“There’s also a relatively large development called Westland Village. They’ve been dormant for a number of years, and they’re now looking to move forward. If that were the case then that would double Redwater’s size,” says Nicol.
As evident through rigorous planning, the town is dedicated to future development. Redwater is even offering a one-year Residential Property Tax Rebate for new home construction projects.
“All in all, we’re looking at a very busy year!” says Smith.
Rural lifestyle, urban amenities
How has Redwater continued to thrive for so long? Location, location. Redwater is centrally located, with the oil sands to the north and its close proximity to major industrial buildings and highways. Redwater is also less than an hour away from an international airport. The town offers many amenities and services typically found in larger urban centres, such as kindergarten to grade 12 schooling, daycares, a 14-member RCMP detachment and a hospital. There are also many attractions, such as a nine-hole golf course and the Pembina Place recreational centre. Therefore, residents can enjoy urban comforts along with the natural beauty of a small town.
Redwater takes pride in promoting a high quality of life for its residents. Town Council and Administration ensure quality of life is a key factor when making growth and development decisions. Redwater is a participant in the Communities in Bloom program, which promotes civic pride, environmental responsibility and beautification. Five minutes away from the town is the Redwater Sandhills Natural Area, which is home to one of the largest sand dune fields in the region. This area is perfect for nature hikes and bird watching, and has over 100 kilometres of trails for equestrian and recreational vehicle use. Redwater is increasing their walking trail project and enhancing park spaces within the town. Moreover, Redwater is just a 45-minute drive from Long Lake Provincial Park offering both winter and summer recreational activities.
“We’ve virtually got everything going for us,” says Smith. “Just come and take a look. We’ll certainly surprise you. We are a very welcoming community. We encourage business growth, industrial growth and certainly residential growth.”