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Central Alberta Economic Partnership is expanding

Economic development adds three more municipalities and gets provincial funding boost

Central Alberta Economic Partnership (CAEP) is heading into 2023 on a roll.

The province’s nine regional economic alliances, of which CAEP is one, saw their provincial government support bumped up last month to $125,000 from $50,000.

As well, CAEP has received a regional vote of confidence with the addition of three new municipalities, Camrose County, Starland County and the Municipal District of Bighorn, to bring its membership up to 35 communities, including Montana First Nation.

“There’s lot of positive momentum, lots of engagement,” said CAEP executive director Kimberley Worthington on Monday. “We’re moving things forward.

“I’m glad to see people rally around a collective approach to economic development,” said Worthington.

The additional funding, announced at the Rural Municipalities of Alberta fall conference last month, rewarded years of lobbying efforts to restore funding to the alliances that had been cut to $50,000 in recent years from a previous high of $200,000 in annual operating and project funding.

CAEP also receives 70 cents per capita funding from its municipal members. That is expected to increase to 80 cents next year.

At one point, Worthington was almost alone running CAEP, which now has two full-time staff and several sub-contractors. She hopes to use some of the additional funding to leverage other grant funding and add a new position.

“What I’d really like to do is create a position that helps with boots-on-the-ground economic development. We have a roving EDO (economic development officer) program and because of our limited capacity we put it on the back burner,” she said.

“But we’re getting a lot of interest, especially with our new members right now because it helps fill capacity at the local level.”

Through the fee-for-service program, municipalities can get help building up their economic development portfolios and improving strategic planning and communications.

“We’re looking at ways to create investment opportunities in their areas and jurisdictions.”

CAEP has some other major initiatives in the works, including the Workforce Strategies Summit on March 30 at Red Deer’s Westerner Park.

Attendees can learn about the new workforce through topics, such as the role of diversity, how the GEnZ population fits in, as well as looks at how automation and technology can fill the “people gap.”

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