At the beginning of October, council spent a couple of days working on Strategic Planning. Every year in the fall we spend some time together, with council and administration and decide what’s important for the coming years. It helps us move forward. I am a firm believer in setting goals and working together and this is a great way to accomplish that. The definite themes that came out strong in our planning were how important the economy was. This is one theme of a few but definitely the most talked about so I thought I would share some thoughts on this.
So how does council help or influence the economy? First off, we need to diversify. There will always be cycles where industries flutter and council will have little control over this. If we can create multiple industries though it should help lessen the impact on the overall economy. Tourism came through loud and clear as a vastly underutilized industry in this area and so we have to come up with a plan for that. How do we promote the region not only as a place to visit but a place to live? Can we do something to encourage tourism-based businesses to get started? What can we do to market the area better? What festivals and events are needed to draw from a larger radius? On top of this, we thought of the benefits of education. Giving our own youth more options before having to leave the community, creating jobs, and adding more skilled labour to the work force. Northern Lakes College is currently working on a plan to build a large trade center, so what can we do to support that? Council is currently lobbying and working with partner agencies throughout Alberta to create a Firesmart Training Center here in Slave Lake. Additionally, we looked at how we could create offshoots from industries that already exist. An example would be the forestry industry, creating co-gen facilities that create jobs and add value to the economy here in the region. What other value added industries could we create from industries that already exist? We talked about the importance of supporting economic development, searching for opportunities and about making opportunities happen. We talked about the need for more industrial land if we want to promote industry to come here. We are concerned about the amount of vacant industrial and commercial properties and how do we work towards filling these back up. Parallel to that, how do we support the businesses that are still here? Downtown revitalization was brought up and the role of the Chamber of Commerce in promoting and encouraging business. How do we support them and create success for the initiatives they are working on? How do we get the consumers to support our local economy?
In the end the message was clear that when it comes to the economy we are not helpless. In fact, there is a lot we can do to help strengthen and support the economy that exists here. It was also important to note that not only does the town have a role to play, but industry, local businesses, the chamber of commerce, and even the consumers who shop here. In the coming weeks, I’ll share some thoughts on what you can do as a consumer as well as what we are working on to make a difference. The point I wanted to get out today is that it’s a top priority for this council but will take a lot of help to actually make a difference. Stay tuned as we let you know what we are up to and how you can help.