Mayor Denis Perreault firmly believes Swift Current has more power than its diminutive reputation suggests- and he’s backing it up with a massive goal to grow the city’s population to 25,000 people by 2025.
“Even though we are just over 18,000 people, we trade with, probably, a 50,000 population,” Perreault explained. “It becomes very attractive for new service companies and new retail companies to take a chance on Swift Current.”
The city needs 1,000 people per year to move to Swift Current if it wants to meet the lofty goal. A big part of that will be drawing in major projects like the Chinook Power Station, which is set to open next year. In the meantime, it’s created more than 400 temporary jobs.
Perreault and an economic development team are attending conferences across the country to pitch companies specializing in the oil, gas, solar and wind sectors. With a yearly average of 2,374 hours of sunshine, the city is one of the sunniest in the country, and Perreault sees it as a rich opportunity for future enterprise.
Swift Current recently beat out Regina and Rosetown, Sask. to headquarter ETG Commodities’ western Canadian operations. A formerly empty lot now houses the massive agricultural supply group’s state-of-the-art splitting plant, which processes 350 tonnes of pulses every day.
“We have, pretty much, a quarter of the crop grown in Saskatchewan of lentils and peas,” ETG Commodities CEO Rav Kapoor said. “That’s the primary product we bring in, clean, grade, and ship to 40 countries around the world, spanning from Africa to South America to Asia.”
“It’s one of the largest splitting plants in Canada,” he added. “When we came here, there were just six bins and a rail track, so we pretty much did everything from scratch.”
The city has grown by about 1,000 people a year since putting the new strategy in place- with many saying the local Newcomer Welcome Centre has been vital for retention.
“They’re providing all information you need,” new Swift Current resident Bhargab Patel said. “If you need a house to rent, if you need something for your house, if you need school, they have all that information. It’s very good for newcomers like us.”
Patel moved to Saskatchewan just under two years ago with his wife and young daughter, and though the initial winters were difficult, have made a home for themselves in the province’s southwest.
With the city currently about 7,000 people short of its goal, council is confident Swift Current is equipped to handle a population boom.
“We have a good waste water facility that isn’t quite at capacity, and what that means is that we can add more to it. We have a professional fire service that again, I think, could serve more people. we have a contract with RCMP that could be serving more people. We’ve got very good infrastructure in the ground,” Perreault said. “We could definitely handle having more people here and still be able to support those facilities, so it’s a matter of getting to scale.”
In the meantime, he’ll be fighting to add extra tools to the belt as the city’s goal goes into crunch time.