With only one year of funding secured through the Alberta Community Partnership grant in the amount of $125,000 for the project at this point, Sallstrom said a key focus will be building a foundation for economic development with the partner municipalities, each who have in their own way explored ways to support and enhance growth in their respective communities in the past. However, bringing them all to the same table, with a more regional - St. Paul/Elk Point and area - focus to work collaboratively is an exciting undertaking, according to Sallstrom.
“This particular grant was requested for economic development and a strategic plan was the initial objective,” Sallstrom said, adding that it was recognized by the partners that they required someone to undertake the work to execute the plan, with each partner contributing some additional funds to offset the cost not covered by the grant.
The committee tasked with overseeing the project has representation from all the member municipalities consisting of Darrell Younghans (County of St. Paul), Tim Smereka (Town of Elk Point), Nathan Taylor (Town of St. Paul) and Dave Amyotte (Summer Village of Horseshoe Bay), along with representation from the chamber. Alberta HUB and Alberta Labour and Immigration are providing advisory assistance.
Sallstrom said she sees her role as being “the hub for economic development and having a view on everything that’s happening, so that we can strategically and regionally plan.”
There is a lot on her plate, but Sallstrom doesn’t hesitate in saying she’s up for the challenge.
“The region has everything it needs to move Alberta’s mandate of economic development forward. There’s no reason why we can’t. It’s just we have never had any (local) coordinated effort around it.”
STEP is working with Outlook Market Research and Consulting to develop a strategic plan for the group and together they have drawn upon information from Albert HUB, member municipalities and other local groups and organizations to develop an initial document outlining proposed opportunities in economic development. This document is now in the hands of local municipal councils for discussion. Based on feedback from STEP partners, the strategic plan involving short-term and long-term targets will then be developed.
“There are about 20 different areas that we saw where there could be economic growth. We are not going to be able to do all of those by any means,” Sallstrom said, adding the intent of the initial document is to provide areas for consideration, with some of them possibly being more suited for chambers of commerce, individual municipalities or other organizations to tackle.
STEP has identified a list of priority items which includes everything from tourism to value-added agriculture opportunities, to business attraction and expansion, and situational analysis of things like health and recreation and broadband availability. And that’s just a few of the items.
“The challenge around this year is it’s a one-year project. As a committee, and as an EDO, we need to show that there is value in continuing to fund it either through ACP grants or municipal funding,” Sallstrom said. “This is going to be a huge foundational year that we can hopefully leverage off of. I feel confident that we can show that value.”
Sallstrom’s office is located in the County of St. Paul building. She can be reached by email at email@example.com.