The Joint Economic Development Initiative (JEDI) 2017 budget was approved with a $158,460 City of Wetaskiwin contribution; although, not every councillor was on board to accept the budget.
The city’s contribution is equal to 2016.
Councillors Joe Branco and Patricia MacQuarrie voted against the item, during councils Nov. 14 discussion.
A number of trade shows and missions are included in the 2017 budget, including the China International Petroleum and Petrochemical Technology and Equipment Exhibition (CIPPE), March 2017, which is in relation to the oil and gas industry; the Global Petroleum Show in Calgary, June 2017, also relating to the oil and gas industry; and an undetermined agriculture trade show.
Included in JEDI director of economic development Rod Valdes’ budget package for council is the statement: agriculture is one of the two key industry targets for the organization, “A suitable event has not yet been identified, but one will be attended in 2017.”
JEDI, incorporated under the Alberta Societies Act in May of 2003, for the purpose of fostering industrial development in the region, is an economic development-driven partnership between the City of Wetaskiwin, the County of Wetaskiwin and the Town of Millet. It is managed by JEDI staff and a board of directors, and was one of the first municipal partnerships of its kind in Alberta to enter into a cost and revenue sharing master agreement.
Councillor Wayne Neilson mentioned, during a previous JEDI meeting, there was concern expressed CIPPE is generally attended by major corporations in the petrochemical industry. “We might be one of the only ones, as a municipal government . . . in attendance of that conference.”
Neilson asked for clarification as to how the conference could be beneficial to JEDI, with it’s $7,500 cost, “At a time in our provincial economy with oil and gas being where it’s at?”
Valdes says a big reason for attending CIPPE is because it is the best value for the funds. “Really the only foreign investment countries that are coming in on oil and gas for the most part are China and the (United States).”
He added attending China’s conference is approximately half of what it could cost in the United States.
Oil and gas is a integral part of JEDI and Valdes says it is important to keep engagement high. “So then they know who we are and they understand what we’re talking about.”
Valdes says attending CIPPE will also allow JEDI to provide exposure for technologies and opportunities from the area. “A lot of Chinese prefer our technology to other rural technologies and manufacturing companies.”
“On the agriculture side, they’re not so much expanding their ag companies up here. They’re trying to expand their technology over there,” he added.
The provincial government is also attending CIPPE and Coun. Tyler Gandam wondered if by JEDI attending would it be an overlap. “What is your sales pitch to have these petrochemical companies choosing us?”
“We’re selling the region as an investment,” said Valdes. When Chinese companies are looking to expand to Canada or Alberta, Valdes says JEDI is promoting the region as the best option.
Valdes admitted with the oil and gas industry in recession it is not the best time for CIPPE to be held but oil and gas is part of a waxing and waning cycle and the region needs a continuing presence.
Coun. MacQuarrie wanted conformation JEDI, for the region, was pre-vetted to meet one-on-one with companies during the trade mission. Valdes explained once the conference starts pre-vetted companies interested in meeting can arrange to do so.
MacQuarrie says there’s another municipality (unnamed) that already has meetings set up.
“I’m a really strong advocate for JEDI. I believe really strongly in the JEDI agreement and I believe our region is on a tipping point to move forward on all kinds of different opportunities. I see huge benefits in marketing our region as a whole,” said MacQuarrie.
However, she made it clear she would be voting against the budget and the city’s contribution, as there is continued strategic importance being placed on the oil and gas industry through trade missions, which she does not agree with. “We have a very marketable region and I’m surprised a small community is going to go to this trade show and has seven pre-vetted meetings set up and we have zero with the multitude of opportunities across our region. I find that concerning.”
“And I don’t think we are actually taking advantage of the Government of Alberta’s trade missions at the level the other communities are,” she added.
In the budget, $5,000 is allotted for an agricultural trade show and MacQuarrie does not feel the opportunity is being capitalized upon at it should be.
MacQuarrie was also displeased no funding has been put toward grant opportunities, despite the provincial government investing $26 million into regional grants, “Which shows a lack of foresight.”
Councillor Branco questioned if the matter could be tabled for council to receive more information. However, mayor Bill Elliot stated all the information was before council in the budget package and any questions can be directed at Valdes.
Based on the proposed budget, the annual contributions from the three municipalities remain the same and were listed as: for the County of Wetaskiwin, $137,203.95 (42.6 per cent); for the City of Wetaskiwin, $158,460.90 (49.2 per cent); and for the Town of Millet, $26,410.15 (8.2 per cent).