The current economic downturn has been described in many ways.
Dale Barr uses the word “opportunity.”
The chairman of the Central Alberta Economic Partnership said lower land prices and favourable interest rates have created an appealing atmosphere for investment and growth in the region.
“For some, it could be an opportune time for expansion,” he suggested.
Barr was speaking the day after CAEP — a consortium of regional communities and other entities like business and educational organizations — held its annual general meeting in Red Deer. That meeting included a discussion of some of the projects that it will pursue in the coming year.
Key among these, said Barr, is a strategy to attract foreign direct investment, both from this continent and farther afield.
“Specifically, we’re going to try to sell some of the advantages of our economic downturn.”
Barr said the goal will be to increase investor awareness of the opportunities here. The initiative will involve attracting specific types of businesses that would be suitable for the region.
In this regard, said Barr, a recent study commissioned by Red Deer Regional Economic Development — another economic partnership involving the City of Red Deer, Red Deer County, the Red Deer Chamber of Commerce and Red Deer College — identified some of the industries that would be well-suited for Central Alberta.
“Our goal would be to work with (Red Deer Regional Economic Development).”
CAEP will also do the next phase of its Welcoming Communities project.
The focus up to this point has been on analyzing the strengths and potential shortcomings of CAEP communities when it comes to attracting people and investment Now, it’s time to take the next step, said Barr.
“We’re going to have expertise come into the community to help them deal with some of those issues, or help them promote specifically what Central Alberta and CAEP communities have to offer to the world.”
This dovetails nicely with CAEPs efforts to attract foreign investment, he said.
CAEP also plans to develop video profiles of its members. These could be used on the CAEP website and on the websites of the individual communities as a means of showcasing what they have to offer.
“We’ll be doing them over the year,” said Barr of the production timeline.
Among CAEP’s successes during the past year was the creation of the Central Alberta Rural Manufacturers Association, which has conducted a number of well-attended meetings this year.
“We’re very pleased with how that all went together,” said Barr.