By Ian Croft
Taber town council has unanimously passed a motion to provide funding to the SouthGrow Regional Initiative.
On Nov. 23, Phyllis Monks, director of planning and economic development, presented administration’s analysis of the cost benefit of supporting the SouthGrow Regional Initiative.
This analysis presented the benefits of being part of the SouthGrow Regional Initiative offered to the town which included a Peaks to Prairies EV charging station installation in the community centre parking lot which was valued at $120,000 and was provided to the town free of charge from the initiative, and the switch from local intel to Town folio that’s provided by SouthGrow. This Town folio provides the town with graphics that can help summarize their demographics which are later used by site surveyors, saving the town $5,000 annually.
Monks also presented that when Taber is unavailable to attend events, SouthGrow attends, so the initiative has the town’s marketing materials on hand and represents Taber at the event. One of these events was a trip to France which would’ve costed the Town $10,000 if they wanted to attend.
“From an economic perspective the partnership with SouthGrow is particularly beneficial in regard to investment leads,” said Monks. “The province will often reach out to them when they’ve been approached by a business seeking a location in southern Alberta. Taber is then invited to respond to these searches with potential opportunities and lands. Without this potential membership link we may lose those referrals. These items would approximately be $142,500 in addition the potential negatives of not being a part of this group could be considered.”
Due to the loss of provincial funding this continued support of the SouthGrow Regional Initiative would increase the amount the initiative charges from $0.45 per capita to $1.00 per capita. This increase results in the Town of Taber paying an additional $4,635.40, as they would now pay $8,428.00 into the initiative.
After Monks’ initial presentation, Coun. Joe Strojwas was the first to speak up voicing his concerns about how the Town is already investing money into personnel to represent the town at events that SouthGrow attends.
Afterwords Coun. Jack Brewin spoke in support of funding the SouthGrow Regional Initiative citing that once COVID-19 ended many businesses would want to start investing into new developments and how SouthGrow could help guide them towards Taber.
Chief administrative officer Cory Armfelt clarified with Strojwas that the motion being presented by Monks was an overall cost benefit analysis of retaining the town’s partnership within the initiative rather than just looking at the activities that are already covered by members that work within the town, and that SouthGrow can help open up those opportunities.
“My intention was that SouthGrow is looking for some feedback,” said Coun. Carly Firth. “Whether municipalities are willing to go up to a dollar, none of this is set in stone but I do believe that there is value in being a part of SouthGrow. It gives us an opportunity to work collaboratively with other municipalities within our region, and when it’s a win for the region it’s a win for all of us.”
Before asking if there was any feedback on which particular option they would be in favour of, Coun. Garth Bekkering finally stated he was not originally the biggest fan of the SouthGrow Regional Initiative but after hearing the benefits it provides to the town from Monks’ presentation, he was now prepared to support the initiative. Bekkering made the motion that the Town of Taber would retain their membership within SouthGrow pending final membership cost.
Mayor Andrew Prokop commented about the value of retaining membership within SouthGrow before the motion went to vote where it passed unanimously.