IN THE NEWS
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.
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."
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.
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.
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."
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."
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.
“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 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.
The town of Altona has taken a big step forward in its plans for business and industrial expansion into the future.
The town announced on Wednesday the purchase of 117 acres of land from Grand West Farms.
Mayor Al Friesen says he's excited to see this process move forward, noting it was the right time to make this kind of purchase.
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."
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.
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.
Local Communities Selected For Federal Immigration Pilot
The federal government announced on Thursday the Gretna-Rhineland-Altona-Plum Coulee district has been selected as one of 11 communities across the country for the program.
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.
Major Renovation Planned For Altona Co-op Food Store
The store will almost double in size going from 14,000 square feet to about 25,000 square feet.
A continued increase in sales over the past number of years prompted the decision to expand the store, according to Iverson.
Altona-Area Oat Milling Company Expanding
An oat milling facility near Altona, MB is undergoing a significant expansion. Ryan Penner is CEO of Buffalo Creek Mills. "We're very excited to have our unloading facility improved," he commented.