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Coalhurst looking to redefine economic development committee

Posted on October 20, 2022 by Sunny South News

By Kenyon Stronski
Sunny South News

Many different committees were looked at during the Oct. 4 regular meeting of Coalhurst council. This led to many different committees either being redefined, merged, or phased out altogether. The Economic Development Committee came up in discussion, with Mayor Lyndsay Montina opening the floor for those who wished to speak on it.

“I know this was something that we have talked about within the strategic plan about being important to us. I don’t know if this necessarily, in its current iteration, meets our needs, but I do think that there’s potential value in having something like this.”

The plan was to merge economic development with the Community Sustainability Enhancement committee, a proposal that Coun. Heather Caldwell questioned if they’d work well together. Montina asked for Coun. Scott Akkermans to step up and speak on the proposal.

“I do think that you could probably combine those two committees because if you’re looking at sustainability and enhancement — that’s talking about supporting your community and providing opportunities for them to move forward and I think that’s pretty much what economic development would be in a community. I think that if the committee was a little broader, it would give a little more flexibility of what you have to do because I don’t think economic development would be like a once-a-month thing. You’re probably going to have ideas and topics that you’re going to be discussing and trying to move forward with this and the other ways that you can support the community and make sure that the community is sustainable at the same time. So, it might be more of that bigger picture versus just focusing on businesses, so I do believe that we should be doing something for economic development within our community, especially with the plans of expansion and I do see that if we can find that that the Sustainability and Enhancement committee — or just kind of merge them into a new one — would be beneficial overall”

The Economic Development Committee is old, with Coun. Deborah Florence mentioned it has a line saying it has Community Futures Lethbridge as a regional representative. With the committee being potentially dated, Florence brought forth the idea of looking closer to home.

“So, just to clarify you’re saying that we should just stick them together? I think that with the Economic Development Committee, that first of all, I agree with you that in its current iteration, it’s not good. It’s even talking about having Community Futures Lethbridge as region representatives but I think that we have something really good with SouthGrow and I think that we already have an external work that does some of this Economic Development stuff and maybe it could be a little bit more active. I actually don’t see this going well with community sustainability and enhancement because I see it more about beautification and what’s working or helping support committees. I would actually say that it would be best blended with the rec and culture and so I would say this one can go, as we already have SouthGrow in our area and we have strong representation there so I’m not sure this is beneficial.”

As revealed in a survey mentioned by Caldwell, there is a large community of small, quiet home businesses in Coalhurst open to opportunities to become more visible; saying she sees huge potential for a commercial area.

“If we think though that we have a potential for a new commercial area moving into our community, and we have a huge amount of quiet businesses that are in their homes and we did do a survey in the past with them and they were looking for opportunities to become more visible. Maybe we do another survey again, you would ask about what Councillor Akkermans said. Make that something we look at, providing greater support for our businesses and possibly getting them to grow out of their homes and into our new area. Look at incentives and I’m not sure, there’s a whole list of strategies to grow and maintain your business so it might be something that’s important to us, that we don’t feel might be important in this moment but developing and growing it maybe.”

Florence voiced her agreement with the points, however, brought up another talking point for the Town of Coalhurst — they lack a chamber of commerce.

“I think you did touch on some very important points to talk about, giving businesses a voice and community stakeholder engagement and that automatically points me towards the chamber of commerce. I do think we’re lacking in that representation and that’s something that on the side I’m trying to get people excited about and hopefully, we’ll get a committee to start the group and I think that’s where that would fit in really well; is that chamber group and things like that so I agree with you”

Reviewing another town’s Economic Development committee, Coun. Jesse Potrie said the committee is rather broad, reviewing things such as strategic plans and recommended policies, “It’s not solely focused on some things, and it may be a little different perhaps than a chamber but it seems like not a lot of things happen — it depends on the town.”

“I just think one of our goals was to incentivize business, enterprises and development cultures so I think we should have these goals as a priority. It would be nice to have one committee that could potentially support that stronger with a business side of it so maybe economic development is too broad.”

Agreeing with Potrie’s statement, Montina said it seems the committee is something deemed important to the town, but may need to be redefined.

“I would agree with what you’re saying, I think this is something that we’ve identified as being important. At this point in time, I don’t know exactly what this could look like for us but I think that it’s something we need to invest in, particularly with what you’re saying with tracking businesses or even in some of our conversations we have heard that staff was being approached by some businesses that were interested in coming to our community and it’s not really the way to do it. That’s what was available, and looking at all our stuff to see if we’re friendly to businesses so my thought is that we keep it but redefine what it means, would anyone disagree with that?”

No disagreement was voiced.

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