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Lethbridge among the fastest-growing economies in Alberta: report

Click to play video: 'New report shows economy in Lethbridge continues to grow' New report shows economy in Lethbridge continues to grow
WATCH: A new report shows the Lethbridge economy will continue to enjoy steady growth this year, pointing to factors like recovering oil prices and a low Canadian dollar. Katelyn Wilson reports – Jul 27, 2017

A new report from the Conference Board of Canada shows the local economy in Lethbridge will continue to enjoy steady growth this year.

When the economic downturn hit Alberta in 2014, tens of thousands of workers in the oil and gas industry were laid off.

TIMELINE: Tracking the layoffs in Alberta’s oilpatch 

BCT Structures, a modular manufacturing company in Lethbirdge, was part of the downsizing.

“In the downturn we’ve had to go down to like 30 employees,” senior manager of manufacturing and construction, Ryan Munro, said.

Once focused on building accommodations for pipeline and oil companies, the company was forced to pivot.

“We had to be nimble,” Munro said. “From going from oil and gas, which is very cyclical, we’re focusing on senior homes and hotels. We feel that’s a more stable business.”

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Since then BCT Structures has been able to re-hire a majority of its workers.

With a recent report released by the Conference Board of Canada, it seems more good news is on the way.

“You have oil prices starting to pick up,” Associate Director Alan Arcand said. “They have increased since last year and the Canadian dollar remains very weak so that also helps.”

READ MORE: Albertans see wage increase; economist considers it encouraging sign 

Munro agrees, saying they’ve been able to ship units as far down as San Diego and, with the lower exchange rate, they’ve been able to offset the transportation costs.

With more agriculture and food processing than oil and gas, the report also shows Lethbridge’s economy has surpassed the provincial trend.

“For Lethbridge, it’s more of a steady-as-she-goes situation,” Arcand said. “It’s experienced growth in the mid 2.5 per cent range and we can expect similar results this year and next.”

Construction and manufacturing sectors are also set to receive a boost from the new Cavendish Farms’ $350-million potato processing plant.

READ MORE: Agriculture shielding Lethbridge from Alberta’s economic slump 

But one industry that isn’t benefiting is the cattle industry. A rising global supply of beef is resulting in lower prices for producers.

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Experts say, however, with 30,000 jobs created in the city over the last five years and a steady growth in population, the overall outlook is good.

Monro says the company hasn’t felt the effects of recovering oil prices, but says the new report is promising.

Medicine Hat and Red Deer were also among the cities mentioned in the report, with Medicine Hat anticipated to post the strongest economic growth.

In Red Deer, the GDP is poised to rebound by 2.0 per cent this year and 2.2 per cent in 2018.

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