A restructuring at municipal hall means the municipality once again has a person on staff to examine economic growth opportunities for the community.
In November, 2010, the economic development officer position was eliminated. The position was seen as an expense the municipality could not justify. The focus of that position had been to attract businesses — a difficult task during an economic downturn.
While the new position continues to examine economic opportunities, the focus has changed.
Instead of working primarily to bring businesses to the community, one of the tasks will be to attract people who wish to live here, even if they work elsewhere. This is a significant change from past years.
Today, however, there are plenty of economic opportunities which do not rely on one’s employer being physically present in the community.
There are some who work in the oil industry, spending time in northern Alberta but wishing to have their homes elsewhere. Others who work on short-term or temporary projects around the world do not wish to relocate each time they take on a new assignment. And there are those who have positions which allow them to work remotely.
Whether this form of marketing will work in the long term remains to be seen.
Living here and working out of province depends on an excellent communications framework and reasonably priced transportation.
The communications framework is in place, but there is no guarantee transportation costs will remain close to today’s levels. Some predictions foresee rapidly rising travel costs within a few years.
The creation of a position to examine growth options was badly needed.
The model used to attract growth will need to be examined and revisited regularly.