PrairiesCan announces new office, $11.2M in funding for Lethbridge area

Click to play video: 'Lethbridge area getting new PrairesCan office, funding for 18 projects'
Lethbridge area getting new PrairesCan office, funding for 18 projects
On Thursday, federal minister for Prairies Economic Development Agency of Canada, Dan Vandal, visited Lethbridge for a two-part announcement. Eloise Therien has the details on how the agency is expanding its reach in southern Alberta. – Jan 19, 2023

Prairies Economic Development Canada, a federal agency dedicated to enhancing economic development throughout the Prairies, will be operating a service location in Lethbridge.

According to the minister for PrairiesCan, Dan Vandal, the office will be located inside the historic downtown post office building at the corner of 7 St. and 4 Ave. S.

It’s part of an expansion of seven new offices in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba announced in 2021 for a more community-based approach.

“The whole idea is to get out there, to talk to business, to non-profits and to make sure they understand and are aware of the supports that we can give,” he said.

Vandal visited the city on Thursday to make the location announcement, which also included details on $11.2 million in funding for 18 projects in Lethbridge and the surrounding area.

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It’s estimated this will create around 230 jobs.

The money comes from four different funds: Community Economic Development and Diversification (CEDD), Regional Innovation Ecosystems program (RIE), Tourism Relief Program (TRF), and Canada Community Revitalization Fund (CCRF).

For example, approximately $2 million is going toward an agriculture innovation centre at Lethbridge College, which president and CEO Brad Donaldson said is one of the largest applied research grants the school has ever received.

“Having the centre on campus get access to applied research means students get access to leading-edge technology, they’re graduating with knowledge and current leading-edge practices,” Donaldson said.

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“It’s a great blend of helping the sector itself improve its capabilities to produce more product, newer products, but also having our graduates capable of seeing what that technology looks like.”

The RIE funding is also supporting the Alberta Sugar Beet Growers Association, the St. Mary River Irrigation District, and the University of Lethbridge for two projects: a expertise centre for health management and monitoring and an Indigenous youth integrated learning centre.

The recipient of the largest amount from the TIR is Lethbridge & District Exhibition.

Mike Warkentin, CEO, said the more than $3.5 million  will help with network connectivity in the building, culinary services, and audio visual tools at the Agri-Food Hub and Trade Centre, set to open later this year.

“It is state-of-the-art, it is digital wayfinding signage, digital art, digital screens,” Warkentin explained. “Everything about this building is connected.”

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Tourism relief also coming from the Alberta Birds of Prey Foundation in Coaldale, Little Gem Winery Ltd. in Nobleford, and Tourism Lethbridge.

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Several communities getting a boost from the CCRF, including Coaldale, Coalhurst, Picture Butte and Taber.

In each case, some sort of community improvement or beautification will be taking place.

“Each of the communities need to be vibrant, people live there,” said MLA for Cardston-Taber-Warner, Grant Hunter.

“We raise our families there, and so we need to make sure they are places that families will enjoy, children will enjoy and this is exactly what that funding is going to do.”

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Smaller projects will help groups like the Interfaith Food Bank expand its community garden, and the Galt Museum create an outdoor audio-visual display.

The Holy Spirit Roman Catholic Separate School Division will build an outdoor basketball court on St. Michael’s school yard, while the Allied Arts Council of Lethbridge will enhance shade at the rotary square in the downtown to increase capacity for summer programming.

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A full breakdown of funding amounts and how it will be used for each project can be found on the federal government’s website.  

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