On Oct. 28, Premier Prentice and I released the Rural Economic Development Action Plan. The Action Plan is a blueprint for future rural economic success in Alberta. It lays out clear strategies and specific actions that build on the strength of Alberta’s rural economy by linking existing resources and organizations, increasing infrastructure capacity, and ultimately growing our provincial economy.
The Action Plan focuses on five key themes that resonated with our stakeholders:
⦁ Industry and Business Development
⦁ Financial and Capital Access
⦁ Attraction, Retention and Entrepreneurial Development
⦁ Rural Business Infrastructure Capacity
⦁ Regional and Cross-Regional Collaboration
As part of the Action Plan roll-out we announced immediate first steps, like increased funding for the Agriculture Opportunity Fund which will support industry and business development and changes to the Feeder Association Loan Guarantee Program which will double the maximum individual loan limit to $1 million.
Our hosts for the Action Plan release, MacKay’s Ice Cream in Cochrane, are a made-in-Alberta success story… with a delicious made-in-Alberta product. MacKay’s is a great example of a rural Alberta entrepreneurship at its best, where the family business has steadily grown from a small storefront and the local community has created a unique small-town tourism district.
Cochrane and its economic success is a great example of regional business collaboration… helping to ensure the long term viability of the local economy by making Cochrane a destination for weekend getaways, and a stop for travellers en route to the Rocky Mountains.
It’s the kind of entrepreneurship and collaboration that we are looking to foster in rural Alberta to benefit our rural communities, our economy and all Albertans.
A lot of work went into building the Action Plan. The Rural Economic Development Task Force, including MLAs Hector Goudreau, Jacquie Fenske, Ken Lemke, Bridget Pastoor, and myself, held a series of consultations with over 200 stakeholders in eight rural communities across the province this spring. We discussed priorities, identified opportunities for growth and job creation, and looked for ways to better coordinate current programs and services to enhance rural economic development.
We talked, and mostly listened, to the suggestions from economic development organizations, area associations and citizens about how to best address the economic needs of our rural communities. We are all from rural Alberta and know the joys and challenges first-hand.
During the discussions, our stakeholders told us how essential it is for government, industry and communities to work together to ensure existing programs and services are coordinated so that they are delivered effectively and efficiently.
The resulting Action Plan is grounded in a long-term vision for rural Alberta, recognizes the unique circumstances in different regions of this province and lays the groundwork for successful and sustainable economic growth in our rural communities.
To read the full plan, please visit: http://www1.agric.gov.ab.ca/$Department/deptdocs.nsf/all/csi12085/$FILE/reda-final.pdf.
Verlyn Olson, Q.C.
Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development