Mid-Sask Municipal Alliance shifting focus into economic development

LANIGAN — The promise of a new mine brought them together. With progress on that mine delayed, the Mid-Sask Municipal Alliance is focused on attracting other economic opportunities.

The alliance was officially created six years ago to ensure communities surrounding the coming BHP Jansen potash mine were on the same page when it came to land use planning. The organization, made up of 13 member municipalities, is now shifting its energies to economic development.

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“There is strength in numbers and we believe in working together,” said Gary Bergen, the alliance’s chair, at its annual general meeting in Englefeld April 4.

Peter Nicholson, the vice-chair, is from Drake, a village of 200.

“We can't provide individually what's needed. But as a group, the resources are there to provide for some of these larger companies that are coming in and doing work with the region.”

Celine Favreau, the alliance’s director of operations and planning, said they’re in the second phase of a three-phase investment attraction strategy.

The first phase was identifying the key sectors for investment: value-added agriculture,  mining, manufacturing and tourism.

Now, the focus is on identifying companies within Canada and internationally that are interested in investing in those sectors. Favreau expects that work to be finished by the end of the summer.

The third phase will be meeting with those companies, bringing them to the region and then following up.

The meeting included three representatives from the provincial ministry of trade and export. Gavin Conacher, an international engagement director, said there was potential in mineral spas, a service that could be provided in Manitou Beach; potassium salt, which food companies are expected to see as a healthier alternative to table salt; potash mining; manufacturing; hybrid and electric farm implements; green pulp – using straw to produce paper; and even helium extraction. He told the audience that it can take years for a company to make the decision to invest in a project.

Nicholson said he was glad to hear about the possibilities from the ministry.

“We need to work with these agencies in the provincial government have them open doors, if that’s the case,” he said. “If there's all that interest in investing in Saskatchewan, then this is a prime region to do some of their investing in.”

Favreau said the work the alliance is doing on economic development will make it easier for the ministry to promote the region.

“By us putting together, the data and showcasing the information that showcases our region, that makes it easier for them to do their job for us,” she said. “We're putting ourselves on the map so that they can take us out and promote us along with the other areas in Saskatchewan that have already done this work.”

The annual general meeting also gave the members the chance to receive an update about land-use planning from the provincial government and learn about the newest technologies to keep track of a municipality's assets.

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