by Lucie Roy
More than 70 people attended the Morinville & District Chamber of Commerce Luncheon held Nov. 6 to hear the keynote speaker, Sturgeon County Mayor Alanna Hnatiw.
Hnatiw spoke of the work underway to enhance Sturgeon County’s competitiveness, as well as the challenges and opportunities they are exploring to elevate their global profile and keeping their region evolving to ensure economic vitality.
Hnatiw said the County had started the path toward fiscal sustainability and ensuring the growth of the economy when Council was first elected two years ago by initiating an Operational Efficiency Review. The review identified 48 recommendations that could be implemented without additional resources and others that would require a form of investment.
To date, half of the recommendations have been implemented to position them for growth while still providing quality, cost-effective services to residents and businesses and keeping taxes low.
Hnatiw said Sturgeon County is taking action through initiatives to enhance the competitiveness of the County.
Sturgeon County is currently looking at ways to modernize its regulatory environment so the County can reduce development and building permit timelines for residents and businesses.
They are also prioritizing their infrastructure needs to build the right projects that support the safe and timely movement of people and goods.
Working with the provincial and federal government, Sturgeon is trying to encourage more investment in the region and reducing the operating expenditures within the County to ensure they remain financially sustainable.
Sturgeon County is also working with the municipalities of Strathcona County, Lamont County and the Cities of Fort Saskatchewan and Edmonton to attract domestic and foreign investors. This work is to scale, value-added investments that will generate economic activity, including new construction and permanent jobs, schools and health facilities and contribute to the County infrastructure.
Hnatiw said another focus is the Villeneuve Airport and a new sub-regional partnership called the Villeneuve Landing Network.
The group will consist of various municipalities as well as the Chamber of Commerce and other interested stakeholders. With access to the highway, CN Rail, and working together with the Edmonton International Airport, they will continue to grow the region.
Hnatiw said they are also working with the four counties in the Edmonton Metro Region, Sturgeon, Strathcona, Parkland and Leduc to assess, re-engineer and implement excellence in municipal competitiveness with a focus on best practices about business attraction and capital investment.
They are working together as they have common challenges and opportunities.
“Not all rural communities are the same, but we are the same in the fact that we are adaptable and play an important role in supporting growth across the region,” Hnatiw said. “Our inter-municipal relationships are more important now than ever to strengthen partnerships and to find solutions, share cost and capture efficiencies.”
Halfway through their term Hnatiw said the Council had made significant progress. The top priorities are to continue working through the remaining 14 Inter-Municipal Collaborative Frameworks, annexation work with St. Albert, and balancing the work of the Edmonton Metropolitan Regional Board.
They have established the Heartland Area Resident Task Force and the Transportation Advisory Committee to provide more opportunities for community members to provide input on issues that matter to them.
The County has also installed a solar panel system on the Namao Fire & Protective Services to continue to pursue innovation in the utility services they provide.
“In these times, I truly believe that it takes courage and decisive action to shape our future,” the mayor said. “It means that we should not be afraid of change, making the right choices and getting them done to build a successful future of regenerations to come. These times, like any other down history, are guided by how we choose to work together. I want our region to be successful, and that can only happen if each and every one of you is successful, too.
“Every day, we work to make the region more open, connected and inclusive to broaden our understanding of other cultures and perspectives. Achieving these objectives and facing the pace of change will require a concerted and coordinated effort to build habits of cooperation to continually adapt to transitions in our own economy.
And most importantly, we will realize our vision of being a land of increased opportunity, prosperity and fairness.”