Economic Development welcomes new director

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There’s a new director at the helm of the St. Albert Economic Development department.

Rod Valdes took the title on Tuesday and has wasted no time in getting to know the department and key players in the community. He’s been meeting with staff members, the St. Albert and District Chamber of Commerce and the city’s chief administrative officer.

“What I’m looking to do is understand the capacity of the region and understand what the residents need, as the city as a whole,” he says. “Once I understand that then I can direct my team.”

Prior to his new position, Valdes worked as the director of Economic Development in Wetaskawin for two years. The department was comprised of three municipalities and Valdes was in charge of growing the region’s industry.

Before he worked in Wetaskawin, he spent four years working for the Economic Development department in Leduc/Nisku.

He says both areas were thriving with industrial growth, something he sees happening in St. Albert with the land annexation from Sturgeon County.

“I have experience with growing industry so I saw this as an opportunity,” he says.

He says he won’t making any drastic changes to the city’s department, but will instead focus on learning St. Albert’s strengths and capitalizing on them.

The first focus for the new director is honing in on what defines St. Albert.

“I want to really understand and identify the capacity of the region,” he says. “I want to know what our strongest labour supply is, what’s our transportation like, what’s our infrastructure capacity.”

One of the focuses for Valdes is going to be expanding industry within St. Albert, without compromising the city’s livability.

That means looking at what kind of industry is in line with the city’s identity and what the carbon footprint would be.

“We don’t want to just change it into this big industrial space, we want to keep that livability factor. St Albert has a lot of young families, others that are retiring and there’s a big community focus,” he says.

With the expansion in newer residential areas within the city, he says property taxes will likely increase. But with more industry developing within St. Albert, taxes will start to go down.

Another focus of his is going to be promoting St. Albert globally. With experience in hosting trade shows in his previous positions, he says he plans to push the city more into the international market.

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Dayla Lahring

Dayla Lahring joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2017. She writes about business, health, general news and features. She also contributes photographs.