By Ian Croft
Communities such as Vauxhall often struggle with funding for new projects due to their lower income from having a small population compared to cities. This is why organizations like SouthGrow can be tremendously beneficial for them as they unite smaller communities together in an effort to get projects up and running that can benefit the whole area. To make sure these organizations are representing the communities’ interests, they often reach out to councils. During Vauxhall town council’s regular meeting on Sept. 19 saw a delegation from Peter Casurella, executive director of the SouthGrow Regional Initiative.
“So, this is my presentation — I got a mandate from the board to get to 40 per cent of our members now every year to give an update to council directly and send videotaped updates to everybody else,” said Casurella. “(This is) a chance for me to talk to you about what we’ve been working on, what we are working on currently, and what we got in the pipeline coming up. We got recommendations that turned into actions out of the discussion that our board had about sustaining the organization which is going very promisingly. The fiscal future of SouthGrow is very bright because of these conversations and the work that the staff and board have done over these past few years.”
Following this brief introduction, Casurella gave an outline of what he will be talking about and an explanation of what exactly SouthGrow is to the new councillors.
“As you guys know, or some of you who are new council may not know, SouthGrow doesn’t do traditional community economic development. We never had the capacity to do the project on the ground, rather we are funded by all the communities of the region — we’ve got a mandate to do projects that help everybody. Since the economy is regional, we focus on projects that give an opportunity to the entire region. By necessity, these projects focus on things that have our shared economic interests at heart. For instance, we do a lot of agri-food projects — things that advance the agri-food industry in southern Alberta. In the past seven or so years, we focussed heavily on broadband. We’ve made an incredible amount of progress on that front making sure our communities were able to tackle the hurdles of getting really good broadband infrastructure into their communities.”
With Casurella working for 29 other communities in south-central Alberta, he is primarily responsible for driving forward original development projects under SouthGrow. One of these development projects is introducing new types of energy other than fossil fuels into Alberta.
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