By Lethbridge Herald on November 15, 2019.
For investors, glamorous Kelowna remains the first choice among Western Canadian cities.
But Lethbridge is now ranked No. 4 by Western Investor magazine, based on the city’s steady growth and solid economic base.
Employment numbers and retail sales keep on rising, it notes, and the city continues to invest in infrastructure and needed facilities.
As a result, the business-oriented publication placed Lethbridge as the West’s fourth-best place for business investment, after Kelowna, Prince George and Chilliwack, B.C. No other Alberta city made this year’s “top five” list.
“Despite an Alberta slowdown, Lethbridge’s economy has fired on all cylinders over the past two years,” it reported.
The city’s economy expanded by 5.1 per cent in 2016, it added. The feature cites Conference Board of Canada projections for a “still-healthy” 2.6 per cent gain in 2019 followed by 2.7 per cent in 2020.
Strong employment growth will continue with 2,700 new jobs created this year and next, it says, following an 1,800-job gain last year.
“It is encouraging to see that as a result of advocacy efforts and hard work, Lethbridge is being highlighted as an excellent choice when it comes to investing in Western Canada,” Mayor Chris Spearman observes.
“As the only Alberta city cited in the report, it shows that our diversified economy, strong employment growth and investment in infrastructure are proving to be major drawing cards when it comes to attracting business and industry to our city.”
Lethbridge, he said, “will continue to provide a high level of service to potential investors while giving priority to catalytic projects in our Capital Improvement Plan which support economic growth and job creation.”
“It’s good news,” added Trevor Lewington, chief executive officer at Economic Development Lethbridge. “We appreciate the recognition.”
The Western Investor also stressed that Lethbridge’s economic performance “is attributed to a diversified economy that is underpinned by agriculture, not oil and gas extraction.”
The city’s education and health-care sectors account for nearly 20 per cent of Lethbridge’s gross domestic product, it adds.
Population growth is also remaining solid, the report observes, with 1.9 per cent gains expected in both 2019 and 2020.
To meet the needs of a growing city, the feature says Lethbridge is spending $10 million-plus to twin a southern part of University Drive and to build a second westside fire hall. In response to rapid growth in passenger counts, Lethbridge has also planned about $700,000 worth of upgrades to its airport in coming years.
On the retail front, it says Lethbridge businesses are on track to record $2.2 billion in sales this year, up 3.6 per cent from 2018. They will rise another 4.5 per cent next year, it predicts.
The magazine also reports the number of new homes started during 2019 is expected to pass 600 units, about 10 per cent ahead of last year.
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