Mayor says major economic development coming in 2019

Mayor Greg Dionne is pushing back against concerns that the city isn’t doing enough to spur long-term economic development.

Some city councillors expressed concerns during Thursday’s budget debate that the city wasn’t attracting enough investment. However, Dionne says a number of major announcements are lined up for 2019.

The biggest involve two outside businesses moving into Prince Albert, one coming from Calgary, and another, a manufacturing business, from Winnipeg.

Dionne declined to provide more details, but said plans are already in motion to get both businesses up and running in Prince Albert.

“They (the manufacturing business) are looking for a building as we speak, but I don’t want to take the fire away from them,” Dionne said following Thursday’s meeting. “They’re looking. The deal is done. They’ve bought the business. They’re moving in. The other deal (from Calgary), I just talked to them on the phone. The deal is done. They’re just signing the documents and then we’ll make those announcements.”

If things go according to plan, those won’t be the only two announcements in 2019. Dionne also said a group of local contractors and businesses are going to put a group together to help the city with economic development. The mayor was once again reluctant to provide details, although he said the goal was to create more incentives for businesses already headquartered in the city.

“Sometimes with economic development, you miss what’s right in front of you,” he said. “Sometimes you can get economic development by encouraging businesses to expand. You give them the right atmosphere, and they’ll expand and we’ll go from there.”

Several city councillors, most notably Ward 3 Coun. Evert Botha, were critical of how the city pursued economic development during budget deliberations on Thursday, and on Dec. 10, when the 2019 budget came to council for formal approval.

Botha voted against the budget because it didn’t contain a strong long-term economic vision. His biggest complaint was the lack of funding for an Economic Development Manager position that has remained vacant for more than two years.

“We’ve seen the time that it’s taken to fill some of the other positions within senior management in the city,” Botha said during Thursday’s meeting. “We need to find this champion that’s going to be present at every single trade show where there’s mining companies or logistics companies or businesses that are looking for new markets to invest in or to expand into. I don’t believe that the city should wait.”