By Anna Smith
A new year is a new host of opportunities for Verge Economic Development, and 2024 is no exception, as they shared their goals during the December 11 Bow Island Town Council meeting.
Their first priority, said Theresa Hardiker, Executive Director with Verge Economic Development, is to do a scan of the development world and see what’s happening in the areas of all of their stakeholders and partners.
“Hopefully early spring so that we have a strategic plan that we will work from just giving all of the stakeholders the opportunity to put a finger on this is what Verge does for us and this is what we need from Verge,” said Hardiker.
Their primary priorities for the new year, said Hardiker, will be the “development of the welcoming communities strategy,” as well as continued work on increasing the agricultural workforce capacity, something that promises to be more and more vital with plans for the Highway 3 corridor to continue to see additional investment in the near future.
“The welcoming community strategy is in partnership with the Medicine Hat Immigration Group. What that is, is really looking at the community and what are the wraparound services that we provide when we talk about labour attraction into our communities,” said Hardiker, mentioning the previous delegation in regards to the Kale Porteous Memorial Splash Park as something that would be of interest to the strategy.
“As we know our population decreased, but luckily enough in Bow Island, there is a much higher younger population than we are seeing as a benchmark for provincial numbers,” said Hardiker, who continued on to explain that the rest of the province has seen a population increase, making attraction of employees a vital part of their plans for the coming year.
Verge has also been hard at work in creating various educational packages, from detailing different careers in the area, from expected compensation to required education. They have also been hard at work on the “Come Farm Cow,” a labour attraction marketing tool which has seen some traction.
Hardiker also shared potential new work with the Housing Alliance, and Return to Rural 2.0, a project that aims to retain students or have them return to their roots after receiving their necessary training.
Overall, there is a lot coming up for economic development in Medicine Hat and the surrounding region, and while Hardiker notes that much of it is still in the works to see what will best suit the region, they are looking forward to a new year.