Skip to content

Irrigation, value-added ag and infrastructure projects among priorities to move SE forward

The SSEP is a partnership of the two southeastern RMs and Bienfait. Each member offers diverse investment opportunities to start, grow or expand a business.
Tim Keating was the guest speaker at the chamber's latest Coffee Talk.

ESTEVAN — One of the representatives of the Southeast Sask. Economic Partnership (SSEP), which is working with the RMs of Estevan and Coalfields, as well as the Town of Bienfait to bring new economic opportunities to the region, spoke at the latest Estevan Chamber of Commerce Coffee Talk on April 3.

The conversation with Tim Keating, managing director of the SSEP, was focused on their initiatives and rural regional economic development. Keating, who was born and raised in the Estevan area, started with a brief overview of the organization.

The SSEP is a partnership of the two southeastern RMs and Bienfait. Each member offers diverse investment opportunities to start, grow or expand a business. As a region, the southeast offers the strength of combined knowledge, land, transportation logistics, low business costs, a skilled workforce, and abundant natural resources, according to SSEP's website.

"Through the coal transition and the focus on economic development, the group was formed to represent rural southeastern Saskatchewan's needs, concerns, its priorities, initiatives and work with the city and work in partnership to grow the region," Keating said.

"You have to work together. That's it. It's not complicated. It's not rocket science. It's as simple as that. If you decide to work together, things will work for you and you'll get achievements."

One of the first things the newly created group did was the establishment of a five-year regional economic development plan, which sets out their vision, goals and priorities for the future. The plan is posted on their website at

The goal was to find ways to advance the local economy.

"This economy runs on four cylinders - agriculture, oil and gas, mining coal, power, boom. With the announcements of the closures, how many of those cylinders are shut down? Two, for sure, right? So, we're running an economy on half the engine. So, we have to come up with different cylinders for that engine? How are we going to do that?" Keating said.

"So, our group sat down ... and we came up with pillars. We looked at what we can do that we might have a chance in succeeding and helping to alter that."

One of their pillars was municipal infrastructure, since good roads and infrastructure create a positive environment for investment, make communities safer, create more employment opportunities, etc.

"For example, under the municipal infrastructure, we achieved high north of 10 million in infrastructure projects just for the sub-region, not counting what's been achieved within the city," Keating said.

Examples of recent projects include the airport road, Bienfait's new fire hall, the 605 Primary Grid upgrades and more.

Another outlined pillar was value-added agriculture.

"That one we feel we have a really strong advantage on," Keating said, noting that the region already has agriculture-focused infrastructure, which is an advantage when it comes to attracting and developing value-added ag projects.

"There's definitely excellent infrastructure here. So, we want to connect that infrastructure.

"With value-added processing, we're working on two major grain processing projects right now. They are confidential, but one is in the neighbourhood of the $100 million-plus range. The other one is in the north of $300 million. Looking at about 150 new jobs in value-added ag processing," Keating said.

The third pillar is water, Keating said.

"This, to me, is the most exciting out of all the pillars for our economic development strategy. This is about taking water and repurposing it for economic development purposes," Keating said.

He pointed out that the water used in coal mining and at the power plant, if not used to produce electricity in the future, might be reused. 

"Our first biggest priority is irrigation. It's a massive opportunity," Keating said, noting that the area has potential similar to Lethbridge for growing a variety of vegetables. "This area has a massive, massive, massive, massive, massive, massive opportunity in the multi-billion, with a capital B, dollar range opportunity to get irrigation happening here ... We're looking at either surface water irrigation, or well water irrigation."

Tourism is another pillar, and SSEP is looking at the potential for building a recreational community probably with a geothermal spa resort at Rafferty.

"This is under our tourism strategy. We want to develop a full-service deep marina on Rafferty. We've looked at 13 sites; we hope to have one or two sites narrowed down and do some public consultation this summer and get access to that land from the Water Security Agency," Keating said.

More information about the SSEP strategy, projects and funding can be found on their website.