By Lethbridge Herald Opinon on June 16, 2017.
“A Bright Future” and “Lethbridge Bound to Be a Commercial Centre,” the very first issue of the Lethbridge Herald announced on Nov. 8, 1905.
That prediction made more than a century ago proved to be on the mark. But The Herald’s staff of that time likely couldn’t have envisioned all that the city has become – a thriving community closing in on 100,000 residents that blends a reliance on traditional economic engines like agriculture with 21st-century business in the technology field.
Even in the face of continuing economic challenges left over from the downturn in Alberta’s oil industry, Lethbridge and area remains well positioned to prosper in the years ahead. Readers can find evidence for such optimism in the pages of “Progress 2017,” The Herald’s annual look at southern Alberta, which was published this week.
Economically, there’s plenty of good news. Economic Development Lethbridge reported a record number of investment inquiries in 2016, and the city attracted a dozen new businesses along with $470 million in business expansion projects. That included the whopping $350-million investment planned by Cavendish Farms for a new, state-of-the-art frozen potato processing facility in Sherring Industrial Park.
Mayor Chris Spearman, in his message in the Progress edition, noted Lethbridge was recently ranked 23rd among 133 cities worldwide in cost competitiveness in a study by KPMG. That positions the city as an attractive place for business, and more business helps drive the local economy.
The city’s two post-secondary institutions are important drivers of the local economy, too, not just as employers themselves, but also by what they bring to the community in terms of offering quality education and providing other community benefits. The University of Lethbridge and Lethbridge College provide cutting-edge training and education in a wide range of fields, not to mention research that garners national and international attention.
The twin engines of business and education attract residents, too, leading to Lethbridge’s continued growth toward the 100,000 mark.
Lethbridge is an interesting mix of old and new. The area began as a whisky-trading centre before the discovery of coal led to the community’s development on the strength of that industry. Later, Lethbridge became an important agricultural and transportation hub, and today, as EDL CEO Trevor Lewington notes in the Progress edition, the agriculture sector is shifting toward a greater focus on value-added processing.
But the technology sector is playing an increasingly prominent role, aided by innovations from the university and college. The city is still home to 119-year-old Lethbridge Iron Works, but is also benefiting from new tech companies operating out of the tecconnect centre, which fosters entrepreneurship and innovation.
More than 100 years after the Lethbridge Herald’s prediction, the city’s future still looks bright.
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