Reinventing the Region: Regional Mayors Identify Opportunities for Innovative Development and Growth
Late November, UDI – Edmonton Metro’s members gathered for one final luncheon in 2022. The conversation invited regional leaders to highlight innovations and opportunities emerging in the Edmonton Metropolitan Region.
“Conversations like these help to spotlight the innovation and collaboration occurring throughout our regional landscape,” said Karen Wichuk, CEO of the Edmonton Metropolitan Region Board. “As proud partners of UDI, we are looking forward to collaborating in the future on more events like these – to help us collectively implement the region’s growth plan ensuring we are a competitive and livable region, welcoming more people and investment.”
Moderated by Courtney Jensen of Strata Developments, the panel convened the perspectives of Mayor Cathy Heron (City of St. Albert), Mayor Bob Young (City of Leduc) and Mayor Bill Daneluik (City of Beaumont). Jensen prompted the conversation with a broad question on the potential for mid-sized cities in the region to collaborate.
The mayors were quick to answer that municipalities in the region need to unify around one simple yet challenging call-to-action – attracting people and investment. Building cities that attract the best and brightest, that call people home, that enable people to contribute socially and economically.
“One of the region’s advantages is our relative affordability,” said Mayor Heron. “We need to work together to tell this story to the rest of the world, and proactively invite those in Canada and from afar to come live and work here.”
She asked her colleagues, Mayors Young and Daneluik, how they might collectively position their communities and the region to welcome an estimated 500,000 immigrants to Canada by 2025.
“We need to plan and design our communities for a diverse population,” said Mayor Young.
Mayor Young highlighted how Leduc’s planning department is reinventing their downtown, advancing infill, and creating more livable neighbourhoods to accommodate a growing residential base.
Mayor Daneluik said the City of Beaumont is working towards inclusion by creating spaces and places that accommodate a diversity of age groups.
“Our population is growing,” said Mayor Daneluik. “What’s interesting is that 25% of our population is under the age of 15 – well above the national average.”
He says that cities need to meet the needs of shifting demographics through policy, programs, and processes. Mayor Daneluik said the City of Beaumont recently hired a cultural inclusion coordinator and how the municipality is working with developers to incorporate places for play in their projects.
When asked about innovations unique to their communities, Mayor Heron pointed to the City of St. Albert’s green-tape initiative.
“Our green-tape initiative is all about how we can make projects a ‘yes’ for our communities,” she said. “We’ve made many changes to our policies and processes – so much so that it only takes 5 to 6 days for us to approve most developments.”
Mayor Daneluik shared how the City of Beaumont has embraced technological innovations – from electric autonomous vehicles to a $45 million installation of fiber optics.
“Every house, school, or place will have access to fiber optics,” he proudly stated. “We need to welcome innovation and technology – not discourage it.”
In the City of Leduc, Mayor Young explained how accepting surety bonds as a form of security have made it easier for developers to invest.
When asked about what the region’s future holds, all three mayors were resolute – the future is bright.
“We’re open for business,” Young said. “Our region’s economic outlook is positive – we just need to grab it.”
5 Key Takeaways
Collaboration on economic development is key. Mayors agreed that if we are competing with one another, it is a quick race to the bottom. The region should develop a unified approach to economic development, one where we share resources to leverage holistic returns on investment.
Meeting the needs of evolving demographics. Mayors agreed that immigration is key to attracting people from across Canada and the world. Immigrants will choose the Edmonton Metropolitan Region if we design and plan our spaces and places to better meet their needs.
We are open for business. Mayors agreed that policies and permitting timelines need to be streamlined and ensure speed-to-market. To unlock development opportunities and welcome growth, unnecessary regulatory barriers and processes need to be addressed.
Reinventing through invention. Mayors agreed that municipalities need to embrace new forms of technology like a regional electronic fare systems and fiber optics.
Alberta is Calling. Mayors agreed that we need to develop a unified story on how the Edmonton Metropolitan Region is an affordable place to live with a range of housing choices, and a great quality-of-life.