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Alberta Puts Up $30 Million for Local Economic Diversification

Lydia Jacobs/Public Domain Pictures
Lydia Jacobs/Public Domain Pictures

The Alberta government is freeing up $30 million over two years for its Community and Regional Economic Support (CARES) program, a new effort to promote economic diversification, job creation, and entrepreneurship across the province.

“Community projects eligible for funding, under the community economic development stream, are those that build local economic development capacity and strengthen local approaches to improve economic conditions,” Economic Development and Trade Minister Deron Bilous said earlier this week. The fund will cover up to 50% of project costs, “essentially seed funding to help communities come together to put forward business plans and offer the basic building blocks to attract investment.”

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Bilous added that the program “is about supporting our communities, whether it be individual municipalities or larger regions, to give them capacity, and working with them to get off the ground and businesses up and running.”

The announcement is not new money, the Edmonton Journal reports, but consolidates funds already set aside in the province’s 2015 and 2016 budgets. But Jay Slemp, chair of central Alberta’s Palliser Economic Partnership, said the cash infusion would help his region prove its adaptability when the Hanna coal mine closes.

“If we can diversify our economy, we’re stronger,” he said. While Slemp declared himself a “small government guy” who won’t ask for government help unless he has to, “sometimes things are bigger than us and, hey, we are going to ask for help. We’re not too proud to ask for help.”

He stressed that putting funds where they’ll make a difference is a better strategy than just throwing money at a problem. “We want to be efficient,” he said. “We don’t want to just get money—we want to get the outcome.”

In Fort McMurray, hard hit by a two-year crash in global oil prices, funding will include $750,000 to support a local business resource centre and a series of business recovery expos, Fort McMurray Today reports.