Town of Coaldale Agri-Food Sector to Benefit from Highway 3 Twinning Project

Date

The Government of Alberta has announced the allocation of $150 million to twin a 46-kilometer portion of Highway 3 in Southern Alberta. This section of the highway connects Taber to Burdett, an east-west agricultural corridor but the overall economic impact of the project has a much wider reach, according to economic development professionals in the region.

“In my experience people tend to understand the value of our major north-south transportation corridor, or the importance of access to the west to connect to ports in B.C., but the importance of connecting our region to markets to the east can be undervalued,” says Cameron Mills, Manager of Economic & Community Development for the Town of Coaldale. “Ease of access to the US Midwest, particularly commodities markets and ports in places like Chicago, is crucial for the site selectors who help larger multinational companies decide where to invest in new processing capacity.”

Agriculture has long been a centrepiece in the Southern Alberta economy. The exceptional irrigation conditions and availability of natural resources such as wind, sunlight, and water enable the region to sustain one of the most productive and versatile farmlands in Canada, making it a desirable location for value-added agri-food processing. 

Canada’s Premier Food Corridor (CPFC) is a coalition of five communities in the Southern Alberta region that helps promote economic investment into the regional agri-food industry. These communities – Coaldale, Lethbridge, Lethbridge County, Taber, and the Municipal District of Taber – are located along a premier agricultural strip that feeds into the larger industrial corridor. These five municipalities represent the “industrial heartland” of the broader agricultural industry in the region and have been working closely with one another to bring attention to the opportunities available in the region to the global stage.

This region is heavily reliant on roads as the primary method of moving and exporting commercial goods. As the industry has rapidly expanded over the past several decades, the infrastructure necessary to support increased development has not kept up and is now insufficient for the levels of production in Southern Alberta. These transportation restrictions create logistical barriers for global food companies looking to locate in the area, and as a result many opportunities are lost. As a primary trade route, twinning Highway 3 will invariably help cure these restrictions and encourage intensified economic growth.

SouthGrow Regional Initiative is a local organization that has also has a vested interest in the Highway 3 twinning project. As non-profit regional economic development alliance in Southern Alberta, SouthGrow encourages regional collaboration and helps leverage local resources in an effort to mutually benefit all communities. They also focus on interregional communications and amplifying a unified external image to the world.

“The investment into twinning Highway 3 makes Southern Alberta a much more competitive region in the global agri-food industry,” says Peter Casurella, Executive Director of SouthGrow. “Expanding the east-west corridor will not only make transporting local goods to the US Midwest port facilities easier; it will also make travel to Eastern Canada much more efficient.”

The twinning of Highway 3 will have innumerable spillover benefits for the broader regional economy, including Coaldale and Lethbridge. As the geographical centrepiece to the agricultural corridor, expanding Highway 3 will be instrumental in attracting both domestic and foreign investment into the region. Additional investment in agri-food processing also generates positive spillover effects for local trades, support services, and other elements of the regional economy that intrinsically benefit from this growth.

Town of Coaldale Councillor Bill Chapman has been advocating for this project as the President of the Highway 3 Twinning Association for several years. “It has been a really exciting adventure to be involved in this project,” says Councillor Chapman. “Coaldale is a prominent entity in terms of the agri-food industry, so we expect to see the twinning of Highway 3 magnify our already solid economic position.”