Located in the heart of Central Alberta, Red Deer County provides a balance of a peaceful country lifestyle and all of the services and amenities associated with city living. Red Deer County is located one and a half hours from both Edmonton and Calgary along Highway 2, one of the most travelled highways in North America, making it a great place to live, work, invest and grow.
Being located in one of the fastest growing regions in North America – the Calgary-Edmonton corridor – means Red Deer County is rich in assets and opportunity. It enjoys robust transportation and telecommunications infrastructure, access to a regional market of 2.4 million people within a 150-kilometer radius and access to national and international markets.
Sandra Badry, Economic Development Coordinator with Red Deer County, highlighted the strength of the regional infrastructure and logistics networks that help to support the area’s development. In addition to highway access, the area is served by CP and CN rail, air transportation and a pro-business environment.
The County provides local businesses with a strong distribution network, a wide consumer base and a skilled labour market from which to draw. It has one of the youngest, well educated populations in Canada. All of this has positioned the County for continued economic success and prosperity.
The County’s Economic Development department is finding ways to support the growth and development of the regional economy as it serves new and existing businesses. By working in partnership with local, regional, provincial and federal stakeholders, Red Deer County is proactive in its approach to economic development.
Red Deer County’s Economic Development officials support attraction, retention and expansion efforts while simultaneously finding new supply chain opportunities to support its industry sectors. The County is undertaking significant workforce development initiatives to strengthen and support the economy while marketing its many assets.
It aims to further diversify its economy, and has been identifying growth opportunities in the transportation and aerospace industries while continuing to take advantage of the many historically dominant economic areas.
The three main economic drivers in Red Deer County are agriculture, manufacturing and the oil and gas industry. It also has a broad-based service sector and growing IT, distribution, logistics, value-added and tourism sectors.
The County originated as an agricultural settlement. “The land has fertile black soil, reliable surface water and groundwater resources and a favourable growing season,” described Badry. “The region has historical roots in mixed farming, so there is great diversity in what comes out of our area.”
Economic Development officials are working closely with development interests to maximize the benefits of agriculture-related business. Over the last decade, this has grown by 8.4 percent in the County, far outperforming the Canadian average of -1.1 percent. In Red Deer County, ninety percent of the land is dedicated to agricultural production.
Given the available land, the high-quality soil and the ideal growing season in the County, it has naturally become a thriving centre for value-added agricultural processing with tremendous potential for further growth opportunities.
Despite its rural roots, Red Deer County is home to an active manufacturing industry including metal fabrication, petrochemical, machinery and transportation equipment. It acts as a supply chain and industry support for the oil and gas industry and has done so since the discovery of petroleum resources in Alberta in the 1940s.
In 2003, overall sales for manufacturing rose two percent, or $65 million. Manufacturing-related employment increased seven percent during that same time with petroleum, chemical and transportation comprising the bulk of this sales growth. “Petrochemicals, rubber and plastics experienced the highest employment growth, increasing twenty-two percent over the same period,” added Badry. Wood cabinetry construction and food processing are also a significant part of Red Deer County’s manufacturing capabilities and economic strength.
The expense of doing business in Red Deer County is less than the Canadian average. The County boasts low utility costs and one of the most competitive tax environments in North America. “We have no provincial capital taxes or sales tax and we have no business tax in the Red Deer region. The County property taxes we pay are dedicated to school, municipal taxes and then your specific service taxes,” Badry said.
There are a number of competitive advantages associated with investing in Red Deer County. Though it is only 120 kilometers from the Edmonton International Airport and 150 kilometers from the Calgary International Airport, the Red Deer Regional Airport is undergoing significant investments that will help the County improve its global competitiveness.
“It encourages investment in the community and, by maximizing the benefits of our local airport, in conjunction with our strategic location, businesses will be able to take advantage of our competitiveness to access customers locally, nationally and internationally,” Badry explained.
The Red Deer Airport is served by Air Canada and many charter companies and is one of the fastest growing regional airports in Canada, having experienced a 179 percent increase in scheduled passengers over that last four years. The airport expansion is expected to contribute a great deal to the local economy.
Substantial investments have been made by the County, the City of Red Deer and the Provincial and Federal government to extend the airport’s runway. This will allow the airport to increase from sixty scheduled flights per week (40,000 passengers per year) to 138 flights per week (247,000 passengers per year). “With the growth of the airport, it will make it a lot easier to bring people into the community,” Badry said.
The economic impact of one 737 landing every day will generate an annual equivalent of approximately $600,000 in revenue, sixteen person-years of employment and $950,000 in direct wages for the community. As Badry explained, “The airport’s operations are projected to contribute an estimated $52 million in GDP.”
“We’ve got one of the best weather conditions for an airport. Back in the 1940s, when it was built as an airline training facility for World War Two pilots, it was owned by the Federal Government and the reason the training centre was located here is because we’ve got some of the best weather in Canada for flying.”
Red Deer County is also working with government entities and organizations to develop the local workforce. Initiatives are ongoing in the County to help local and regional businesses meet their workforce needs.
“We have worked with Red Deer College in order to get programming in the industries that are most needed,” explained Badry. “They built the Innovation Centre at Red Deer College because we are in such need of trades, for example. They focussed a big part of their funding on trade classes.” There was also a push to train local nursing students since the area has its own hospital and post-secondary schooling at the college.
The County works closely with the City of Red Deer, Red Deer College, Olds College, the Red Deer Chamber of Commerce and all levels of government. Such collaborations are critical to the County’s economic success, growth and prosperity
A major partner of the County is Central Alberta Access Prosperity. It serves as a one-stop-shop for networking, information and resources, and to attract foreign direct investment to the community. The Central Alberta Economic Partnership (CAEP) is another major supporter of development in Red Deer County.
CAEP takes an innovative approach to facilitating rural economic development and serves as a vital partner in the continued diversification of the economy in Central Alberta. CAEP is comprised of thirty-two community members that build on the region’s existing assets, increasing Central Alberta’s competitiveness in the global market.
“We all work together in promoting Central Alberta as the place to move to or the place to grow your business,” stated Badry. “We are also members of Tourism Red Deer. We’ve just completed a destination management plan that among other things, gives us an inventory of all the events that we have in the area and the different attractions that people can go to.”
Red Deer County offers picturesque mountain views, great schools and a desirable quality of life. It is home to a vibrant and diverse population who have no shortage of recreation and culture to enjoy. Residents and visitors can enjoy golfing, skiing, outdoor trails and numerous retail and dining options.
Efforts are being made to promote Gasoline Alley (where Highway 2 bypasses Red Deer) as a user-friendly location. The intent is to examine land use and zoning bylaws to improve the area as a place to both live and work while simultaneously focusing on Highway 2 and 42 for industrial and commercial uses.
Red Deer County is looking forward to the 2019 Canada Winter Games hosted by the City of Red Deer. The County is working closely with the City of Red Deer to welcome participants and visitors. It welcomes the chance to showcase its many assets and strengths as a blossoming economy and a vibrant community.