PAREDA seeing early success

The RM of Buckland and RM of Prince Albert Office./Daily Herald File Photo

The Prince Albert Regional Economic Development Alliance (PAREDA) is starting to build itself as an organization. At their regular meeting on Thursday, October 8 CEO Ashley Charles gave an update on the progress of the alliance.

Charles was hired as CEO in December, 2019 and explained to the council the progress that has been made.

“PAREDA has gained quite a bit of momentum already even though we are not out there promoting yet and I have done that purposely because a lot of the first few months have just been foundational,” Charles said.

She has developed policies, documents and other important items to get the organization’s foundation set.

“That has been done, it has taken some time. Those policies are already in their second draft reading and they should be implemented by the December board meeting,” Charles said.

Charles explained that PAREDA played a role in bringing Pivot furniture to the area by putting together a working group. The company purchased land in the RM of Buckland.

“That’s a good example because Pivot did eventually pick a spot,” she said.

According to Charles, biomass companies are also interested in the Prince Albert region.

Charles is in the process of applying for an investment attraction strategy grant from the Federal Government.

The City of Prince Albert signed on to PAREDA in March 2019, along with five other nearby communities, First Nations and Rural Municipalities.

 “There is quite a healthy range of partners for PAREDA. Our vision is to create a shared vision for a relationship formally committed through an agreement, so that was an agreement that was the MOU that was signed on behalf of all partners for PAREDA,” Charles said.

The board includes representatives from the RM’s of Buckland and Prince Albert, as well as the Town of Shellbrook, Muskoday First Nation and Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation

Charles explained that they have mostly put together the joint community economic development initiatives and developed work plans and structures for governance for the group.  A goal is to build a stronger regional economy for the region.

Their four pillars are business retention and expansion, business and industry development, tourism and marketing and performance and strategy. Charles explained that her view of the region is that south of the bridge is agriculture and north is forestry and tourism.

An important aspect of building PAREDA is data collection and analysis. She keeps goal scorecards. They are currently in the design and development phase of the website which is a large goal for 2020. She is trying to collect every one of the regional partners’ data to display on the website and they are aiming to have the site up and running in November. They will utilize Townfolio, a municipal analytics platform, which will provide snapshots of how each partner is doing. She needs data from the partner RMs for land availability on the website. The website will also include a business hub part.

PAREDA recently took over the Prince Albert tourism center and operating budget from the City to serve as a way to promote regional tourism. The city will be funding but the tourism promotion will be regional in scope. They will be doing a marketing and strategic plan in 2021.

Charles then showed the council her work plan as it is important for the RM as stakeholders to see PAREDA’s plans for the upcoming year.

“It was very thorough and explained a lot of what they have been doing. A lot of it doesn’t make it out into the public sphere,” Reeve Eric Schmalz said.

The COVID-19 pandemic prevented the organization from developing a strategic plan for the next three years. Instead, they did an operational work plan for the year 2020 which she shared with the council.

They plan to open for the 2021 tourism season in March.

They will be ready to have a more public presence in November, Charles said.

-with files from Jason Kerr, Prince Albert Daily Herald