NORTH BATTLEFORD —
Ideas on how to grow economic development in North Battleford came before council members this week.
At Planning Committee Jan. 16, council heard from Jan Swanson, the newly-hired Economic Development manager for the city, about the development of a new Economic Development Strategic Plan.
The document circulated runs from 2023-30 and covers several areas including strategy components, regional economic development, opportunities, strategic goals and priorities, and a list of seven goals.
Those goals include promoting public and private investment, leveraging North Battleford’s assets such as the airport, fostering relationships with other communities, including relations with First Nations, improved relations with surrounding municipal governments, promotion of investments that benefit the region as a whole and development of increased co-ordination between the city and regional partners.
One could point to the hire of Swanson himself as a move by the city to focus more on economic development and business attraction, with his new Economic Development manager position being created by council just in the last year.
In his presentation, Swanson acknowledged some of the challenges seen by North Battleford including the recent high Crime Severity Index numbers as well as the decline in population reported by StatsCan.
“So, this is what we’re hearing. Our iceberg is melting,” said Swanson, pointing to a picture of an iceberg in his slide presentation.
But he pointed to what the city could build on, including nearby oil and gas development, a sizeable agriculture presence, a significant health care presence as well as First Nations investments.
“We’re the gateway to Saskatchewan’s Northwest, and we used to have a sign years ago on the outskirts ‘Gateway to the Northwest.’” Swanson noted the city was really a “hub” for the northwest.
Swanson pointed to a great base for the city to work on. “We can get to where iceberg is growing. And that’s the mindset we need, working hard on it and getting the word that we’ve got a lot of advantages … we need to change our frame of mind on North Battleford.”
One of the more compelling aspects of Swanson’s presentation was reaching back in North Battleford’s history to examples of the attitude of the city residents in early years. He pointed to a picture from 1914 from King Street with slogans such as “North Battleford the Marvel City of the Dominion,” as well as a 1955 News-Optimist headline that declared North Battleford “Saskatchewan’s fastest growing city.”
“This is what our thinking needs to get back to,” said Swanson.
City Manager Randy Patrick explained further about the Economic Development Strategy and what the city hopes to accomplish.
“I think that really is one thing that we’re doing, is we want to change the way people look at the community,” said Patrick. But he noted economic development was only one part of it.
“We need to have the support of the chamber. We need to have support of businesses, we need to have support of people,” said Patrick.
“We’ve had kind of a soul searching about what are we, how do we get where we are and it was kind of interesting. We went back into the past and said that’s what we used to be. Did we lose it? Is it still there? And if you see it, you do see it in places, but you don’t see it everywhere. And I think that’s kind of what we're trying to do is say how do we bring this back from the past to make it our future?”
Planning Committee unanimously voted to recommend bringing forward the Economic Development Strategic Plan to council, and it was scheduled to be discussed and voted on at its Jan. 23 council meeting.
Swanson was scheduled to be the guest speaker at the 117th Annual Chair’s Banquet for the Battlefords and District Chamber of Commerce, to take place over the noon hour Jan. 24 at the Beaver Grill Express Asian Restaurant in North Battleford. That event will see the induction of the new 2023 Chair Kayla Petersen of Century 21 Prairie Elite.
According to the Battlefords Chamber, at that event Swanson will discuss his 2023 work plan and plans for growth and economic prosperity.