Red Deer’s full potential not realized

Higher than average crime, a less educated than average workforce, and an under-diversified local economy all hinder Red Deer attaining its full development potential, according to a draft report commissioned by city council.

Downtown Red Deer continues to evolve.

Higher than average crime, a less educated than average workforce, and an under-diversified local economy all hinder Red Deer attaining its full development potential, according to a draft report commissioned by city council.

On the bright side, Red Deer has many things going in its favour, including low tax rates, a positive business climate, a younger working age population, a reasonable cost of living, and a “highly advantageous geographic position.”

These were the findings of a draft Economic Development Strategy being prepared for the city by Urbanics Consultants Ltd. of Vancouver.

The consultants analyzed Red Deer’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as opportunities and threats to future growth in a report that was presented to city council on Monday.

One of the more sobering findings was Red Deer’s high crime rate.

This city has almost double the reported property crimes as the Alberta average and a third more than the Canadian average.

Local incidents of violent crimes were also about a third higher than the Alberta average, which is slightly higher nationally.

Phil Boname, president of Urbanics Consultants, told council that the perception by many Red Deer residents that crime is rampant — especially in the downtown — is a deterrent to the city realizing its full potential.

Besides clamping down on criminals, he identified a need for more local technical education opportunities. Red Deer has a lower percentage of residents with a post-secondary education than the rest of the province or the nation — only 42 per cent, compared to 51 per cent in Alberta and Canada.

Boname suggested that Red Deer should have its own Central Alberta Institute of Technology, a local equivalent to SAIT or NAIT.

Coun. Cindy Jefferies suggested it’s too easy for some students to leave high school and get highly paid jobs in the oil field.

Boname recognized this, but noted the correlation between higher education and more entrepreneurship.

Among the other weaknesses identified in the report were Red Deer’s higher rates of obesity, low birth weight babies, smoking and heavy drinking than the provincial or national averages.

It also lack an “iconic attraction,” in terms of drawing tourism, and a diversified economy that isn’t largely tied to commodity prices. Boname also found a local housing shortfall since the 2008 recession, with only about half the new units being created as are needed every year.

But among the strengths the city can build on is its high quality of life and relatively low cost of living. It has a younger than average population, the availability of diverse Red Deer College programs, and a lack of local business taxes.

The fact that an encouraging 91 per cent of focus group respondents rated the city as a good or excellent place to do business is very positive, said Boname.

In fact, 40 per cent of business owners surveyed indicated they want to expand their operations.

Boname believes much more should be made of Red Deer’s central location. Instead of companies having to decide whether to locate in Calgary or Edmonton, he said they could set up here and gain quick access to both cities. While the lack of major airport is something of a hindrance, he noted Red Deer Airport is Alberta’s busiest and fastest growing regional airport.

Boname believes this city needs a “brand,” or way of identifying itself to the wider world.

He would like to see more investment in the downtown, including more diverse housing, more restaurants, as well as recreation and culture opportunities.

Boname also believes the city is ready for an enclosed year-round public market.

Coun. Paul Harris liked the report’s suggestion of starting a Downtown Development Corporation to sell investors on the potential of building in the downtown.

More public and stakeholder input will be sought on the draft report before it’s completed in July.

lmichelin@bprda.wpengine.com

Just Posted

Safe consumption site proposal draws big crowd to city council

More than 100 people turned out to speak for and against proposed safe consumption site

Red Deer council sets police review goals

Review will look at alternatives to RCMP-led police force and their effectiveness

Three-year deal ratified for Red Deer CUPE workers

CUPE workers to get four per cent over three years

A Red Deer single mom with MS goes to Disney World with autistic son thanks to Make-A-Wish

The first vacation for the Red Deer family brings spark back to life

UPDATED: Jury selection underway for Red Deer murder trial

Trial looking at a 2015 stabbing death outside the Village Mall

Updated: Red Deer RCMP introduce downtown policing unit

A four-member downtown Red Deer RCMP unit hit the beat on Thursday… Continue reading

Calgarians vote ‘no’ on 2026 Olympic bid in non-binding plebiscite

CALGARY — The results are in, and a majority of Calgarians are… Continue reading

Leon Draisaitl scores and adds two assists to power Oilers past Canadiens 6-2

EDMONTON — Leon Draisaitl had a goal and two assists and Connor… Continue reading

McGill students vote overwhelmingly for change to Redmen team nickname

MONTREAL — Students at McGill University have voted by a large majority… Continue reading

Mira Sorvino urges #MeToo to do more than ‘name and shame’

NEW YORK — Mira Sorvino believes the key to eradicating sexual misconduct… Continue reading

Stan Lee hoped to make Canadian-set series about Indigenous cop, says producer

TORONTO — Stan Lee struggled in his final years to get broadcasters… Continue reading

Holding out slim hope as crews search for more fire dead

PARADISE, Calif. — More than a dozen coroner search and recovery teams… Continue reading

Comic book genius Stan Lee, Spider-Man creator, dies at 95

LOS ANGELES — Stan Lee, the creative dynamo who revolutionized the comic… Continue reading

Canada intelligence officials have heard audio of Khashoggi murder, Trudeau says

PARIS — Justin Trudeau says Canadian intelligence officials have listened to a… Continue reading

Most Read