One of the most important things a community needs is a vision and a mission to get there. Our mission answers the questions: Where do we want to go? and What is the plan to get there? Working within our vision and mission, Administration has traditional core values such as improving responsiveness, representativeness, transparency, accountability, integrity, etc…, and some non-traditional values: entrepreneurship, customer service, process improvements and innovation that Council and Town Administration hold dear to create trust, efficiencies and growth within the Town as we go about accomplishing and attaining our goals.
Recently I met with a business leader, and was caught off guard when he asked me what council’s mission was. I had explained to him that the current mission was, “Making Opportunities Happen”. It’s the heading at the top of the council agenda so it’s the first thing we read when we prepare for our meetings. This business owner then asked me about what we were actually doing to work towards that goal. It was a great question, and I wanted to share the answer to the question to everyone.
Unless you have been living under a rock for the past 12 months, you will have noticed a significant change in our Region’s economy. There seems to be less work, not as much construction, and and an increase in empty buildings.
Even though financial forecasts say there will be ups and downs, we all enjoy when the economy is chugging along, and never enjoy when it struggles. Life has hills and valleys and so does the economy. Its during these down times that it’s a great opportunity to look at what you are doing as a community and see where money can be saved as well where we can promote growth.
During the past 18 months Council and Administration have done quite a lot of work on initiatives focused on increasing efficiencies. With the help of the Chamber of Commerce we looked at our Land Use Bylaw and regulations with respect to driveway widths, landscaping and variance fees. Changes were made to the landscaping regulations that provide residents with a lot more options for landscaping their front yards. We also reduced variance fees. We looked at how we charge for road rehabilitation projects and decided that continuing with local improvement levies still makes sense. Finally we took a very in depth look at off-site levies and made some change that will make it more affordable for new building projects to occur.
Our front line staff has been having weekly meetings sharing ideas on how to improve customer service. We have added new amenities to the region, including the Legacy Center which houses a beautiful new daycare space and a multi-functional performing arts space. Amenities help attract new people and keep the existing ones here.
Council has spent a considerable amount of time in the last year looking at our current service levels, with a main focus around recreation, hours of operation, snow removal, grass cutting, waste, fire services etc. Council wants to make sure administration is providing a level of service that people want, and what the Town can afford.
Council has spent hundreds of hours on budget in the past few years, and we have significantly decreased discretionary spending. This decreased spending has led to a lower lower mill rate than when I started on council 7 years ago!
The Region has created some exciting new materials from videos to community profile information that is located on our Slave Lake Region website (www.slavelakeregion.ca) and highlights how great this Region is to live in.
We are engaging industry to see how we can support and grow their businesses. We are also looking at diversifying our economy. We have done work on the tourism file, and we are growing that plan from the ground up. We are in the process of revamping our visitor information services and refreshing our marketing materials. We have also put together a tourism taskforce full of tourism operators who are working on creating a new organization to grow and encourage more traffic to this area.
On top of that we have been working with health care to attract new physicians, private ultrasound, and equipment for the Hospital. We have been working with Northern Lakes College to support their training programs and with them leveraged a new paramedic program here in Slave Lake.
We are also advocating to the provincial government to build a new training center here which would also create jobs and bring money to the economy. If you add to all the effort, we are putting into community engagement and communication and you can see there is a lot happening.
All in all these or only a few of the examples we are doing to try and make opportunity grow here. No one wants to live in a stagnant community, and luckily I don’t think Slave Lake has ever been. That being said we need to attract some attention, we need to stand out and we need to toot our own horn once in a while. This region continues to be a great place to live and we are working hard to make sure that we continue to improve and grow. Thanks for listening!