Hanna re­ceives $450,000 for eco­nomic di­ver­si­fi­ca­tion

The Drumheller Mail - - FRONT PAGE - Pa­trick Ko­lafa

Af­ter months of wait­ing, the com­mu­nity of Hanna re­ceived some sup­port as they face a fu­ture with­out coal.

Com­mu­nity Ac­tion to Cre­ate Di­ver­si­fi­ca­tion, on Mon­day, re­ceived a grant of $450 ,000 from the Al­berta Gov­ern­ment to cre­ate Com­mu­nity Ac­tion teams. This is a part­ner­ship among the Town of Hanna, res­i­dents, lo­cal busi­ness lead­ers and eco­nomic devel­op­ment ex­perts to at­tract in­vest­ment and cre­ate new jobs for lo­cal eco­nomic di­ver­si­fi­ca­tion, ac­cord­ing to a press re­lease.

“The Town of Hanna has a proud his­tory of help­ing power a pros­per­ous and in­dus­tri­ous prov­ince. We want that to con­tinue so peo­ple here can build a good life for them­selves and their fam­i­lies. We know that Canada’s move away from coal has cre­ated a lot of un­cer­tainty – that’s why we are work­ing with lo­cal lead­ers and res­i­dents to sup­port their made-in-Hanna plan for a re­silient, di­ver­si­fied econ­omy,” said Deron Bilous, Min­is­ter of Eco­nomic Devel­op­ment and Trade. Mayor of Hanna, Chris War­wick, says the an­nounce­ment is a good first step.

“When we did our op­por­tu­nity study, which we ap­proved ear­lier this spring, it iden­ti­fied some op­por­tu­ni­ties we could prob­a­bly get go­ing on right away, but there is go­ing to be a few costs in­curred. So now we can get the com­mu­nity in­volved, we can hold a town hall meet­ing and get some of th­ese things in place and work­ing on them right away,” said War­wick.

The Town of Hanna is plan­ning to host com­mu­nity meet­ings to es­tab­lish the teams. Th­ese teams will be led by the Cac­tus Cor­ri­dor Eco­nomic

Devel­op­ment Cor­po­ra­tion, which in­cludes mem­bers from the Town of Hanna, the Spe­cial Ar­eas Board, the Vil­lage of Youngstown and the Hanna Learn­ing Cen­tre. The teams will also col­lab­o­rate with the Ru­ral Al­berta Busi­ness Cen­tre in Hanna, which helps more than 65 en­trepreneurs and star­tups in the area each year.

“We ac­com­plish more when we work to­gether, and when it comes to cre­at­ing new lo­cal eco­nomic op­por­tu­ni­ties dur­ing this tran­si­tion, lo­cal peo­ple know best. Res­i­dents here have shared their ideas with our task force, and get­ting fund­ing for this project means we can make those ideas a re­al­ity in var­i­ous eco­nomic sec­tors of op­por­tu­nity. Ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties have al­ways been im­por­tant to this prov­ince, and when our economies do well, Al­berta does well,” said Tr­isha Sewell, eco­nomic devel­op­ment of­fi­cer, Cac­tus Cor­ri­dor Eco­nomic Devel­op­ment Cor­po­ra­tion.

This week Bilous held meet­ings in coal af­fected com­mu­ni­ties to al­low those fac­ing the changes to have their voices heard. MLA Rick Strankman at­tended one of the meet­ings in Hanna on Sun­day night.

He says di­ver­si­fi­ca­tion might come through agri­cul­ture.

“I have been try­ing to lever for other op­por­tu­ni­ties whether it be ir­ri­ga­tion or agri­cul­tural devel­op­ment, and that sort of ben­e­fit we could bring for­ward,” he said.

War­wick says the Ad­vi­sory Panel on Coal com­mu­ni­ties has yet to file its fi­nal re­port, and he hopes there is more sup­port com­ing when it makes its rec­om­men­da­tions.

“There bet­ter be. This is not even close to enough. This is some­thing. We have had a few com­pa­nies in­ter­ested in set­ting up some in­dus­try in our re­gion, If we could have a lit­tle bit of a com­pet­i­tive ad­van­tage it would cer­tainly go a long way to en­cour­age some of th­ese com­pa­nies to in­vest here,” said War­wick.

Another fac­tor are the plans of the op­er­a­tors of the fa­cil­ity. While the fed­eral gov­ern­ment has set 2029 as the dead­line to end coal fired, gen­er­a­tion, ATCO has in­di­cated it wished to move the dead­line up sub­stan­tially.

“Un­til ATCO re­ally comes up with their fi­nal plan there is still a lot up in the air,” said War­wick.

The Ad­vi­sory Panel on Coal Com­mu­ni­ties is ex­pected to com­plete its re­port this fall.

Chris War­wick Mayor of Hanna

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