By Lethbridge Herald Opinon on September 11, 2020.
As Alberta’s Recovery Plan begins to take shape it is important to recognize the strength of Lethbridge and southern Alberta not only for what it is, but what it could be.
We all recognize that agriculture and its supporting industries are the true economic engine here in the deep south, and maybe it is the general “get ‘er done” attitude and unassuming nature of farmers that we don’t highlight this more strenuously. It’s possible that the steady, continuous growth and development isn’t as exciting as the “boom-and-bust” cycles of other resource-driven sectors. But together they are very likely the reason that Lethbridge and area has weathered global economic contraction better than nearly every other jurisdiction in Alberta.
It is also the reason why I continually advocate for the strategic, long-term planning and investment into Lethbridge. I believe that Lethbridge is the Deep South hub of the province. I don’t just mean for agriculture but also for health care, advanced education, food processing, technology, trade and tourism.
As the third-largest city in Alberta and centrally located, we serve a community of approximately 350,000, significantly more than our own population.
Currently the Chinook Regional Hospital is a Trauma 3 centre – it does not have the technology, resources or professionals needed to be a Trauma 2 Centre. That means that many serious medical situations – including motor vehicle accidents, cardiac events or specialized surgeries from anywhere in the south region – may come to Lethbridge for stabilization but ultimately end up in Calgary or maybe even Edmonton.
Strategic, long-term planning, could identify the critical infrastructure needed, like a Cath Lab and some key personnel in neurosurgery and emergency surgery, to make this a reality.
Not only is Lethbridge already one of the strongest pieces of diversity in our economy, it has the ability to become even more. Maximizing trade, traffic and tourism through our airport. Continuing to develop our agri-food corridor – did you know that 70 per cent of Canada’s irrigated land is in southern Alberta? And that this region is a major contributor to Canada being one of only five countries in the world that produces more food than it consumes?
Our university and college are also leaders. Their targeted programming for jobs and cutting-edge technology as well as their collaborative partnerships with industry set them apart to attract not only students from around the globe but businesses looking for talented personnel.
As we weather the storms of probable economic crisis, we need to strategically plan, collaborate and cultivate ingenuity and maintain perseverance to let the rest of Alberta (and Canada) know the power and potential of our region and industry.