For their #TakeItToTheLake campaign, the Town of Vermilion, MD of Bonnyville, Lac la Biche County, and Athabasca County received two Excellence in Economic Development in Alberta awards.
The northeast collaboration won both the Community Economic Development Award for a medium-sized community, and the Repsol People’s Choice Award.
“We are so excited,” said Mary Lee Prior, who is this year’s president of the Economic Developers of Alberta.
“Last year we won a national award for this project. It was created to draw people out to our region. Smaller economic development offices encompass so many different portfolios, so in order to create legs we need to collaborate and partner.”
Usually, there are is a lot of networking during a three-day conference in Kananaskis, but this year the conference went virtual for two full days including speeches from premier Jason Kenney, and some provincial ministers.
Prior said they wanted to maintain some interaction so they incorporated some pre-taped interludes, allowed question and answer sessions with speakers, as well as networking events by breaking off to different Zoom rooms.
Speaker’s topics included foreign direct investment, tourism, and collaboration. Each attendee had Alberta-made experience boxes that included spirits from Copper Cork in Vermilion, cheese from Airdrie, honey from Flagstaff County, etc.
“In this day and age, what we found as rural municipalities is that we don’t have as large of voice as the cities – in order to get funding we have to partner and collaborate,” said Prior.
“Economic development in every community allows us to keep the businesses we have, particularly in this pandemic to help them survive. In good economies, it helps us to encourage new business and tourism. It’s good to be collaborative and in Vermilion with the river and the damn we have a man-made lake. For people going north or northeast, they can have an overnight stay in Vermilion and see things they didn’t necessarily know were here.”
The virtual conference recognized businesses in investment attraction, retention and expansion, as well as community economic development. A separate awards committee and judges are chosen from industry.
The Repsol People’s Choice was a brand new award this year, where everyone nominated could be chosen. Across the province, the northeast collaboration received the most votes.
The Economic Developers of Alberta will be hosting their AGM in April, when Prior’s vice chair will take over. With COVID dragging on, she said they are already looking at how to improve conference next year.