IN THE NEWS
Altona Chamber and SEED forming new partnership
The Altona & District Chamber of Commerce and SEED are forming a new partnership, creating a one-stop-shop for businesses that is focused on attracting, growing, and retaining businesses within the Town of Altona and Municipality of Rhineland.
Efforts to expand Altona's industrial park continue to progress.
A conceptual design of a 117 acre plot of land north of the current industrial park has been completed, and at the end of 2020, the Town finalized the acquisition of that land. The subdivision process is now underway.
"(We're) working with the provincial government on that. It's a lengthy process, it's a thorough process," said Mayor Al Friesen.
2021 is shaping up to be the best year on record for Elmer's Manufacturing.
Production at the Altona-based agriculture equipment manufacturer is up 20 per cent over 2018 with plans to ramp it up another 40 per cent by September, according to President and CEO, Mike Friesen.
"We're reaching record sales," said Friesen, adding most of their production has been sold out for the remainder of the year. "We've got about ten or fifteen percent, which is very unusual for us at this point in time...the demand has been extremely high. Farmers are eager to get their equipment for a good cropping year in 2021."
Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship Canada officials engage with RNIP participants during Altona and area visit
Representatives from Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) recently paid a visit to Altona and the Municipality of Rhineland where they were able to see firsthand how the Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot (RNIP) program has evolved over the last two-and-a-half years.
The RPGA Planning District is reporting a solid second-quarter for 2021.
In the Town of Altona, 31 building permits were issued in the second quarter - 29 housing and 2 commercial permits for a total of $5.3 million. This is up from 23 building permits and 0 commercial, for a total value of $1.4 million during the same period in 2020.
Ratepayers in the Municipality of Rhineland were provided with a look back at the past year and a glimpse of what's to come for the municipality in 2021 as Reeve Don Wiebe delivered his annual State of the Municipality address at the Altona and District Chamber of Commerce annual general meeting Thursday.
An incentive package put together by local business leaders and municipal officials to aid in the recruitment of nurses to Altona is seeing some success. Coordinated by SEED, the initiative was launched this spring in hopes it would help re-open hospital ER services in the community.
"It's gone really well," said Stephanie Harris, economic development officer for SEED. "We understand this was a new approach in Southern Health, and so we think that it has been successful in incentivizing four new hires."
Construction activity in the RPGA Planning District is off to a strong start this year.
Susan Stein, general manager of the RPGA says the area continues to see strong growth in the housing market, and commercial construction is up from last year.
"For Altona, we have 23 building permits this year valued at $3.2 million. Last year there were 32 building permits valued at about $6.8 million, so that's down for the first quarter but still on track for the rest of the year."
The town of Altona continued to see growth in 2020 despite the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the community's mayor.
In his yearly State of the Town address to the local chamber of commerce, Al Friesen says the community saw the opening of several new businesses last year while others like Friesens Corporation and the Sun Valley Co-op food store expanded their operations. Friesen cited other signs of positive growth in the community.
“If it’s something we wouldn’t give to our pets, we’re not going to bring it into our store and sell it!”
In one simple line, Guy Britten, Co-Owner of RuffMutts in the Altona Mall, sums up their business philosophy and commitment to their customers.
The Altona location has been open for several weeks, retailing a variety of grain-free and grain-inclusive Canadian-made kibble, including Acana and Orijen.
The town of Altona has taken a big step forward in its plans for business and industrial expansion into the future.
RPGA general manager Susan Stein tells us there has been a large increase in the number of house permits taken out this year.
"Permits for dwellings are up substantially. We've seen double the number of dwellings built in 2020, both in Rhineland and Altona. We're currently sitting between 33 and 35 permits."
The communities of Rhineland, Plum Coulee, Gretna and Altona (RPGA) continue to thrive, according to the local development group, SEED. 2020 marked the second full year of operation for the organization that launched in 2018.
As economic development officer, Stephanie Harris explained, the first year was about laying the groundwork that would later frame the group's priorities. As a result, she says the board was able to get boots on the ground in that second year and start working towards meeting some of its goals
Al Friesen says despite the pandemic situation in 2020, the town had an excellent year when it comes to residential construction compared to the year previous.
Demand for ready to move homes is pretty high right now and an Altona company has found a lot of success tapping into that market.
The company's focus is primarily on building quality, high-end homes that are custom made for the buyer, according to co-owner Kevin Klaassen.
Looking back on 2020, Municipality of Rhineland reeve, Don Wiebe, says the COVID-19 pandemic set the tone for the year early and certainly created a host of challenges for his municipality.
"Initially, we closed things down early, such as arenas and community halls, and then when the threat of the pandemic faded we started re-opening the facilities with numerous restrictions and safety precautions which required staff time, training and supplies. And then, sometime in November the province moved to Code Red and everything is shut down again," explained Wiebe.
Launched November 1, 2019, the three-year Rural and Northern Immigration pilot program creates a path to permanent residence for skilled foreign workers who want to live in the community while at the same time filling job gaps in rural and northern areas of the country.
Thanks to strong local support, Harris says the local foodservice industry has done fairly well during the pandemic, noting most continue with take-out and delivery while others have added delivery to their service menu and plan to continue with that option moving forward.
Ratepayers across the Municipality of Rhineland can look forward to fast and secure Internet service in the near future.
SEED Group Spearheads New Tax Incentive Program
Both municipalities have approved bylaws that will waive municipal taxes for three years for businesses erecting a new commercial or industrial building, or large-scale addition/expansion. The communities of Plum Coulee, Gretna and Rosenfeld are also included in this program.
Harris said members of IRCC were able to also provide details about the pilot and explain the structure of the program, which has been a big help to the local immigration group in developing criteria for the pilot.