Red Deer County Mayor Jim Wood says 2023 is already shaping up to be a good year.
“We will have some very big announcements for business projects, large and small, coming up in the next short while,” said Wood on Friday.
“I just want to say we’re extremely optimistic.”
Wood cannot divulge details yet because there are other partners involved but he does not expect a long wait before more can be revealed.
The county also expects to have an announcement soon on an application for a $10 million federal grant to provide a big boost to the municipality’s broadband initiative. About $18 million has been spent so far on bringing broadband to county residents. If the funding comes through, about $14 million would be spent in the next phase.
The coming economic development is expected to continue the momentum built in the past year.
Ninety-five new businesses set up shop in the county in 2022 and 115 homes were built, said Wood.
“It’s super important for us that we have that business growth and people want bring that business to Red Deer County,” he said.
“From the indicators I’m seeing so far, it looks like there’s going to be huge investment into Red Deer County.”
Jobs create wealth and spinoffs that have an impact across the county, including municipal finances, where additional taxes are used to maintain the infrastructure and services, which become more costly every year.
On a broader economic scale, there are good signs too. While agricultural input costs have risen commodity prices have largely remained strong.
Higher world oil prices have led to a noticeable increase in oil and gas activity in the county, he said.
The year was a busy one with plenty of construction going on. The McKenzie Road was mostly finished at the end of 2021 but in 2022 the county received a Project of the Year Award from the American Public Works Association’s Alberta chapter.
At Red Deer Regional Airport, the main runway was widened and other improvements were made to allow for larger and heavier planes to land. It is hoped the airport will attract cargo carriers and other aviation-related businesses and see scheduled passenger service return.
The county, along with the City of Red Deer, contributed $3.75 million each to the $15 million project.
“I look at that as a huge opportunity for this region,” he said. “I believe what happens there is extremely beneficial to Red Deer County and to Springbrook.”
Another achievement in 2022, was signing a number of new recreation agreements with urban municipalities within the county.
“Working with and having good relationships with other communities is a high priority for Red Deer County.”
In December, the county passed its $59.8 million operating and $42.4 million capital budgets. Tax rates will not be set until the spring, however, the county is based its projections on a 3.5 per cent tax rate increase.
It would be the first residential tax rate increase in many years and was driven by inflation that was in the range of seven per cent in November.
“I think it’s a minimum rate compared to where inflation was at,” said Wood.
Many other central Alberta municipalities also boosted their tax rates higher than residents had seen in years in response to soaring inflation and rising costs.
“This is not just a nation-wide problem, it’s a world-wide problem.”
Bank of Canada is projecting inflation to continue to fall in 2023, to about three per cent by the end of the year and further still in 2024.