Economic development is city’s biggest challenge

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Glenn Cook’s astute observation in the Sept. 14 Gazette on how St. Albert faced many of the same issues 50 years ago as it did today deserves further comment, particularly in how we ultimately dealt with the issue.

As Cook notes, there was controversy over whether St. Albert should further industrialize. As the Gazette noted at the time, more local industry led to more local jobs and a lower tax demand on city residents. Since that time, local industries such as bottling plants, plastics factories, printing presses and construction companies have all set themselves up in St. Albert. These companies have provided good-paying jobs to working parents, students, and others who may not have the skills or education for other kinds of work, without changing the natural suburban character that defines St. Albert.

Today we have some of the same issues, with some members of our city council concerned about how much money should be set aside for industrial development. Their biggest issue appears to be the potential loss of green space that might come with heavy industrial development, and how it might affect our suburban character. I think everyone in St. Albert can agree that we don’t want heavy industries like sulphur plants or bitumen upgraders. Rather, the kind of industries St. Albertans would likely welcome are more industries like Pro-Western Plastics or Gazette Press, industries that typically settle in our industrial parks and away from residential areas. More of these types of industries can only improve our economy and provide more local jobs.

The biggest challenge St. Albert faces is not what new industry could do to our community. Our biggest challenge is the need to develop our economy and ensure that St. Albert can continue to support itself. We’re growing much more slowly compared to places like Morinville or Leduc, and new industry would help us remain viable in the future.

Otherwise, if we can’t continue to support ourselves as a community we could end up being amalgamated with Edmonton. That would change our suburban character more than any new industry ever could.

Jared Milne, St. Albert

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