City preps for “major announcements”

Tyler Clarke
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Itching to let the cat out of the bag, Mayor Greg Dionne said that city officials are on the verge of making some major economic announcements.


City Hall

“In the next month we’re going to have three major announcements that will convert into about $40 million in building permits,” Dionne said on Wednesday.

“One will create 15 new jobs, one will create 55 new jobs and the other one will create about 40.

“They have signed the deal, but the deal has to go before council to authorize the mayor and city clerk to sign the deals, but I’m very confident that these three items will be moving forward shortly and we’ll be able to announce to the public what’s coming.”

“Very excited and very optimistic,” Dionne notes that these three announcements he’s anxious to make will follow the city’s recent sale of 30 residential lots.

Of the 30 lots sold along Smiley Drive in the city’s southeast area, 26 sold on the first day.

“That’s all economic development, because those are 30 new homes and those were bought by all kinds of private contractors,” Dionne said.

Also hinting at “some huge announcements in the next few months on job creation,” Coun. Rick Orr said that the news he’s heard has reinvigorated his optimism.

“The rest of the province and western Canada -- maybe the world -- is looking to us as an opportunity, and in some ways I think we’ve been forgotten about,” Orr said.

“It’s time to bring our community’s strengths forward and show the world what we have to offer.

“We’re kind of like Red Deer was maybe 30 years ago. We are an unrealized opportunity, and I think developers and business opportunities will be looked at.”


Students help out

As the city readies itself for a wave of major economic announcements, students from the University of Regina helped prepare the city for more success in the future.

Earlier this month, a group of about 40 students completed a research project on viable regional growth strategies for Prince Albert.

“We were contemplating what resources we needed to undertake a peer review of the city’s initiative for regional economic development,” director of planning and development services Rick Stuckenberg said.

“Who’s the best and brightest in the province that can help us who isn’t a consultant?”

University of Regina instructor Gina Grandy said that her undergraduate business class was the perfect fit -- a group of about 40 students on the verge of graduation keen on showing off and testing their skills.

“The intent is to integrate the knowledge from their functional areas … that they have required over the three or for years of their program,” she explained.

“The students worked very hard on them, and I heard some of them say anecdotally they’ve never worked on a project so hard in their degree.”

Key to the students’ findings was the importance of maintaining a regional focus, Stuckenberg said.

“One o the key issues that we aw as very strategic is that Prince Albert is a regional service hub and it will grow organically because of growth in the region,” he explained.

“We felt that by taking a broader perspective to partner with the business community and the communities and organizations across the region that we would then grow as a community here in P.A. and have an enriched partnership with the region.”

In the next month we’re going to have three major announcements that will convert into about $40 million in building permits. Greg Dionne

Students separated into eight groups, of whom the top four gave presentations to Stuckenberg and city economic development co-ordinator Brent Zlukosky.

“One of the groups in particular made an argument that their belief was economic growth came from addressing social and cultural concerns of the community as a whole -- so, making that link between social and cultural to actual economic benefit,” Grandy said.

Another group directed their focus toward marketing Prince Albert as “more than just a gateway,” Grandy said – “Not just a stopping point and we move on, but it’s rich in culture, it’s rich in natural resources, it’s rich in so many ways.”

The students’ input will be integrated into the city’s Economic Development Strategic Plan for the City of Prince Albert.

“What I would hope is that the students would have provided lots of food for thought that will result in some stimulating and engaging discussions for the committees as they move forward with the strategic plan,” Grandy concluded.

“I was delighted and I think that the students were delighted with the opportunity to work with the city.”


Moving forward on development

The Regional Economic Development Committee has been charged with moving forward on the Economic Development Strategic Plan.

Refreshed by the University of Regina Students’ findings, committee chair Rick Orr said that it’s always good to think “out of the box.”

“Sometimes when you’re focused on your community you can’t see the forest through the trees, and we wanted to see some opportunities for our community that we might not have thought about,” he said.

“We believe, as a council, when we looked at where we need to go in the future, we know that where we have to sell our city is regionally.”

When surrounding communities benefit, Prince Albert benefits, he explained. On top of that, larger, more regionally focused efforts such as the recent twinning of Highway 11 from Saskatoon to Prince Albert and possible airport expansion, benefits the area as a whole.

“We have to look big when we look at the economics of a community,” he said.

On the verge of what Dionne portray as the makings of a potential upswing in the local economy, the mayor credits a strong city administration and a receptive city council with helping usher things along.

One of the three announcements he hopes to make in the near future was a direct result of an effort of city manager Jim Toye, who joined the City of Prince Albert in January.

“I’m very excited and very optimistic,” Dionne said. “People know that P.A. is now open for business. Are we perfect when it comes to dealing with business? No. Are we getting better? Yes, and that’s what it’s all about.

“Whenever someone runs into hurdles I encourage them to call my office to see if I can bring it to council and shoot down some of these hurdles with my colleagues on council.

“It’s a real team event and they’re going to start seeing the dividends of the team working hard to reach our goal.”

Organizations: Prince Albert, University of Regina, Regional Economic Development Committee

Geographic location: Canada, Red Deer, Prince Albert Saskatoon

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