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.
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.
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
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.
There's been a recent uptick in requests for the business grant program offered by S.E.E.D., according to Stephanie Harris, economic development officer for the group that operates within the RPGA Planning District.
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.
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.
Continued Growth Of Friesens Corp. Yields More Jobs
"The plants have been very full," said CEO Chad Friesen. "We've been hitting some records with the number of press impressions that we've made, the number of books that we've made. It's just been all around a very, very strong start to the year for 2019," Friesen said, adding that revenue numbers are up 18 percent.