By Erika Mathieu
Sunny South News
Canada Premier Food Corridor (CPFC) has a new project to amp up investment interest in agri-food along Highway 3.
Ben Young, director of Investment Attraction for Economic Development Lethbridge made a delegation to County council asking for their support in moving forward with CPFC’s new “Ignition Initiative” and gaining federal funding supports through the Prairies Economic Development Canada funding. Young noted PrairieCan “requires a strong market demand/gap be demonstrated in order to consider funding.”
Alongside partners such as SouthGrow and Community Futures, the CPFC partnership includes economic development professionals from Lethbridge County, Economic Development Lethbridge, the Town of Coaldale, the Town of Taber, and the M.D. of Taber and aims to increase visibility, awareness, and agri-food investment/expansion in the region between Taber and Lethbridge. the CPFC is now going after federal funding to support the mandates of the initiative.
Young said with the support of PrairiesCan, CPFC “could take a more proactive approach to support SMEs in the region and further support the value-added agriculture industry in southern Alberta through expanded activities and projects.”
To date, the collaboration of the various municipalities and groups have completed “high-level” strategic planning as a group, posted investment tours, created asset maps, marketing materials, and more.
Young said with federal PrairieCan support, the CPFC “would undertake a three-year ‘Ignition Initiative’” which would support several essential measures to further establish CPFC as a known, viable, corridor for agriculture and agri-food processing investment. The initiative will further marketing, industry engagement, and seek industry association’s “buy-in to CPFC as a brand.” The initiative would also provide capacity development, for existing small and medium enterprises in food processing, and identify barriers in regional progress.
The project proposal identifies collaborative partnership opportunities, such as with Lethbridge College and Tourism Lethbridge for “Canada’s Food Tour” and would also market agri-food industry opportunities at post-secondary institutions and job fairs. Young said the fundamental goal of CPFC is to market the region as a destination for agri-food investment.
“What we really want to plan to do over the next three or four years is to secure federal and provide support to really engage further and provide additional resources as a collective to further support this cluster development and have dedicated resources for that.”
With provincial support, as well as anticipated support from PrairiesCan “and a bit of additional municipal support, we really think we can take a more proactive approach,” said Young, adding PrairiesCan has invited the CPFC to submit a full project proposal for “Ignition Initiative” and said Economic Development Lethbridge (EDL) is working to finalize the proposal.
“If they would be able to provide the funding, we have outlined in that application,” adding EDL is asking municipal partners for funding support and theirs would be a $5,000 request to Lethbridge County for 2023, 2024, and 2025 to add to the support from the other collaborative municipal partners, some of whom have factored the cost into their upcoming operational budgets.
Young said, “we would then use year four to really evaluate the project, evaluate the impact it had on the industry and business here in the region, then further build a case,” for future plans.
Young said there will be a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) drafted as the funding with PrairiesCan is further along, to outline how roles and responsibilities will be overseen and managed, as well as project updates.
Young told council the notion of economic corridors is gaining traction.
“Economic corridors is something that has really gained traction over the last few years. We’ve been one of the piloting initiatives, especially in Alberta for this type of thing with regional collaboration,” and added, “we have (received) a lot of interest from provincial and federal partners.”
“They see the value in this.”
“As we move forward, regional collaboration (is) really where economic development is going because we are stronger together and from the M.D. of Taber to Lethbridge County and within, we have a lot of the same value propositions. When we want to look at marketing or travel, it makes sense to do it together,” said Young.
Following the presentation, council passed a motion to draft a letter of support for Canada’s Premier Food corridor project,” and will decide on the financial contribution at a future council meeting.