THE BATTLEFORDS - Jan Swanson, the new economic development manager at the City of North Battleford, spoke at the Chamber of Commerce’s 117th Annual Chair Luncheon on Jan. 24, detailing what the Battlefords business community can expect in the city’s ‘Vision 2025’
‘Vision 2025,’ Swanson’s economic development strategic plan, was recently presented to city council for consideration and outlines the future of the Battlefords economic region and the potential for what Swanson calls a 'northwest hub'.
“... the success of the city and the region is very much dependant on expansions, introduction, and development of businesses,” reads a section of his presentation."
Sections 3.1 and 3.3 say that the council plans to prioritize public and private sector investments and leverage North Battleford’s assets such as the airport, the highway, the railways, the river and existing business sectors.
Sections 6.1, 6.3, 6.4, 6.5, and 6.7 pinpoint specific priorities for the council in promoting a ‘regional hub for the northwest.’ These priorities include:
- fostering relationships with surrounding communities;
- improving relationships with surrounding First Nations;
- improving relationships with surrounding municipal governments ;
- promotion of investments that benefit the region as a whole; and
- the development of increased coordination between the city and its regional partners.
“They want to pull resources from local communities to attract business and include entrepreneurs. It’s all about the region. The region is strong. People are strong,” Swanson said, who believes that the Battlefords can and does serve as an entryway and hub to the northwest corner of Saskatchewan.
“If we all in this region, in the city, town, and RM all say, ‘we need this,’ we have a better chance of being listened to. We count, just a little bit better.”
Swanson describes his vision for future commerce in the Battlefords, which harkens back to the early 1900s, when North Battleford was described as a centre of growth and development, as well as the fastest-growing city in Saskatchewan.
“What we’re really after are the agile, the forward-thinking, the entrepreneurs that raise the bar and make all the other businesses around want to compete even more … we’re not looking for caretakers, we’re looking for businesses that want to grow.”
He wants to see businesses shift their mindsets away from COVID-19 and focus on strengthening their businesses. Swanson believes that the commerce community can shape the Battlefords into one that is conducive to business.
There are issues to overcome, such as the population decrease, the high crime severity index, the struggle to find quality job seekers, and a relatively stable economy. But, Swanson also noted there are several opportunities for the Battlefords, including:
- close proximity to oil and gas sites;
- large agriculture sector;
- significant healthcare presence;
- first-class recreational amenities, particularly compared to the population of our region; and
- ample opportunities for First Nation investment with urban reserves,
“We’ve got an airport, we’ve got four main highways coming in here, and just north, a fifth highway. We’re a major hub to the northwest, the gateway, so we have a lot to go on and be proud of … we’ve got a stable economy, so let’s build on it and get it moving.
“We sort of need to change our minds and our thoughts. We need to move forward … we need to start talking about our community in positive ways. So let’s get some stuff happening.”