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Regular Council Meeting Agenda
Coal Community Transition Fund - Walker
Economic & Business Development
Strategic Vision Element:
Where People Choose to Grow a Business - A strong, diversified regional business centre
Spruce Grove has a business environment that encourages and supports new business start-ups, helps ensure existing businesses are competitive, successful and profitable, and attracts new businesses to the City.
Request for Decision Summary
The Alberta Government has established the Coal Community Transition Fund to assist communities impacted by the phase-out of coal in Alberta's electricity system and to undertake economic development initiatives that will support the transition away from the economic reliance on coal-fired electricity generation. Spruce Grove is one of the eligible municipalities who can apply under the program.
That the City of Spruce Grove submit an application to the Coal Community Transition Fund in the amount of $600,000 to support the next stage of project definition and feasibility assessment on the proposed Sport and Event Centre as an important component of Spruce Grove's economic diversification strategy.
As Alberta transitions from coal-fired electricity by 2030 to focus on natural gas and renewables, this will result in the phase out of coal-fired generation units starting on January 1, 2018, conversion of some units to natural gas feedstock and the decommissioning of coal mines at Highvale, Keephills and Genesee. It is estimated that 185 employees out of the 860 mining jobs reside in Spruce Grove. It is estimated that TransAlta spends $27 million a year on procurement in Parkland County, Spruce Grove, Stony Plain and Leduc for the mining operations.
Due to the projected economic impacts on communities in proximity to these plants, the Alberta Government - among other initiatives - has established the Coal Community Transition Fund (CCTF). Spruce Grove is on the list of 19 eligible communities and First Nations which can apply for grant funding through the CCTF to support economic development initiatives that enable the transition away from the economic reliance on coal-fired electric power generation.
The projects must contribute to:
Building economic development capacity;
Strengthening approaches to improve economic conditions; and
Aiding the transition towards long-term economic stability.
The CCTF funding parameters include:
There is actually no minimum or maximum amount to the request for grant funds. The applications are vetted based upon meeting the program criteria and their worth to the community if approved. The largest project funded todate is $450,000 to the town of Hanna to explore economic development opportunities. This is seen as setting somewhat of a precedent as Hanna is among the most heavily impacted communities and the vetting of new applications will likely take this into consideration. Matching funding is not required;
Grant funding will be provided up-front so projects can start immediately;
Applicants have a maximum of 2 years from the date they receive the funding to spend it;
Application deadline is November 30, 2017; and
Regionally collaborative projects will be given priority.
The types of projects contemplated seem to be largely studies, and marketing and business attraction initiatives. Ineligible costs are Land acquisition, major infrastructure, funding for wages or remuneration that exceeds 18 months, debt reduction, expenses incurred in formation of new community or regional economic development organization, etc. This list is subject to change. A copy of the eligibility criteria for the CCTF is attached.
Administration has considered 3 potential projects that we believe would contribute to the objective of promoting economic development and diversification in Spruce Grove. We would recommend submitting only one project so as to not fragment the funding. These projects are as follows (a more extensive description for each of the 3 options is attached):
Administration recommends that the City submit an application to the Coal Community Transition Fund to undertake further feasibility work on the proposed Sport and Event Centre. This offers the potential to create a regional destination that will support a higher level of commercial and hospitality investment as part of the 60 acre Westwind Centre development. The economic and employment benefits are substantially higher and more immediate than the other two options under consideration. This would make a substantial contribution toward expanding and diversifying our economic base. The branding and fibre optic options also present interesting opportunities and are already part of our Economic Development Strategy and Action Plan going forward. Proposed Sport and Event Centre (SEC): funding is requested to support the next stage of project definition and feasibility assessment that provides Council with the information it needs to make a decision on the SEC. The amount requested is $600,000. The SEC would anchor the development of Westwind Centre as an entertainment and hospitality destination resulting in the creation of 1,200 jobs (FTEs) and $310 million in total investment.
Develop and implement a Brand Strategy: funding is requested to support development and implementation of a new brand strategy that will reflect the values and identity of Spruce Grove as a modern urban centre and attractive destination for talent and business. The amount requested is $300,000. If done properly, it can help attract and retain business, attract talent, as well as increase community engagement and pride.
Next Generation Broadband Plan: funding is requested to support the engineering design and initial steps toward the build-out of a fibre optic network as a key component of Spruce Grove's economic development strategy and diversification efforts. Requested funding is $750,000. This would create a "trunk" fibre optic connection from Highway 16 into our main commercial areas and industrial parks. However, this may be seen by the government as building infrastructure which could make it ineligible.
There are two other options identified as possible proposals, either of which could be submitted for funding to the Coal Community Transition Fund. These are Develop and Implement a Brand Strategy, and Next Generation Broadband Plan. More information on each option is attached.
Spruce Grove met with Stony Plain and Parkland County to determine whether there was interest in a regionally collaborative project. However, it became clear that each municipality had its own priorities and given the limited scope for funding, it was agreed that we should each pursue our own initiative.
The deadline for applications to the Coal Community Transition Fund is November 30, 2017. Each application is processed individually and submitted to the Minister of Economic Development for final decision. The grant must be spent within two years from the date they receive the funds. There is no matching contribution required from the City.
The Sport and Event Centre proposal to the Coal Community Transition Fund is intended to give Council the information and due diligence it needs to make a decision on whether to proceed with the project. This will build on work completed to date. It will include a review of the market and financial feasibility, components to be part of the final design, potential operational models, funding and risk mitigation strategies, updated conceptual renderings, partnership opportunities and a business plan.