Grande Prairie region businesses, leaders see light at end of pandemic tunnel
Mayor and reeves joined the district’s chamber of commerce to address public on region’s economic situation
In Grande Prairie, the stores are busier these days, traffic on the road is increasing, and friends and family are getting together in ways Mayor Jackie Clayton has missed.
But those aren't the only positive indicators that the northwest Alberta city's economy is recovering, after months of COVID-19 public health restrictions and mandatory closure orders.
Clayton joined municipal leaders from the County of Grande Prairie and the Municipal District of Greenview at Grande Prairie's first State of the Region Wednesday, a virtual event hosted by the Grande Prairie & District Chamber of Commerce to address the public on the area's economic situation and the pandemic's impact.
She mentioned growth in the areas of housing, drilling and building permits.
"Last month 169 homes were sold in the city, the highest number of sales in the month of June since 2014," Clayton said. "Year-to-date there have been 775 homes sold in the city, 58 per cent more than the same period last year, and 12 per cent more than the same period in 2019."
The address comes as Grande Prairie experiences a labour shortage, particularly in the sectors of oil and gas and hospitality.
But leadership at the event focused on what seems to be an upturn in economic activity, signalling a more positive future.
"We are seeing these statistics and data points come to life," Clayton said.
Twinning of Highway 40
For the Municipal District of Greenview, the largest project being undertaken is the twinning of Highway 40.
"Greenview has committed $60 million to this project which is roughly a 50 per cent stake in the project," said Reeve Dale Smith. "We're more than happy to have the County of Grande Prairie as a partner."
Smith also pointed to the significance of the natural gas sector in the region.
"Greenview is the number one municipality in Alberta for the production of natural gas," Smith said.
"With low cost feedstock and a robust infrastructure, the Greenview Industrial Gateway … stands to generate a strong economic investment in well-paying jobs for our region," he said, referencing the industrial development south of Grande Prairie.
Renewable energy sources
Reeve Leanne Beaupre of the County of Grande Prairie pointed to Nauticol Energy's investment in the region to use renewable electricity to power its methanol plant.
Beginning operations in 2025, Beaupre said, the facility will be a key driver of jobs in the region.
"This facility will create 3,000 jobs in Alberta, 1,000 locally during construction and 200 permanent jobs once it is operational."
Clayton said Grande Prairie has seen an increase in drilling licences, with a 116 per cent increase in planned activity from the same time last year, showing an investment from the oil and gas industry in the area.
But the city is also looking into alternative energy solutions, such as geothermal, hydrogen, solar and combined heat and power solutions, she said, in order to determine what is most economically viable and environmentally sustainable.
"The work being done today will reduce the uncertainty and support investment decisions within our greenfield industrial land," Clayton said.