FOREMOST – The province is investing $595,000 in to several projects across southern Alberta.
The largest by far is in Foremost, where $300,000 will provide two years worth of bridge funding for its unmanned aerial systems (UAS) range project.
Lethbridge East MLA Maria Fitzpatrick announced the funding from the Community and Regional Economic Support (CARES) program Friday afternoon, on behalf of Alberta's Economic Development and Trade Minister Deron Bilous.
"As you can well guess, [for] a small community of 500 people it's very hard to get a business like this up and running," Ken Kultgen, Mayor of the Village of Foremost, told Lethbridge News Now.
"We needed bridge funding to get us through for the next couple of years until the range is busy enough with paying customers to cover all the costs of personnel and business development that needs to take place."
Kultgen said the UAS range project has been on-going for about nine years, and believes it will play a key role in taking the industry to "the next level."
When asked if there's interest in this type of business yet, he noted that companies from across Canada, the United States and even abroad have already been inquiring. Within the next few years Kultgen explained that work done in Foremost could very well include drone delivery companies, emergency system development, improvements to agriculture and forestry surveying and much more.
"There is some oil and gas, but agriculture is our main industry here. This is another technical industry, that if there's some young people in our community that would like to stay in this community, this is probably another avenue.
They can go get training at some college or universities that are developing their programs, and they will be using Foremost in their programs," Kultgen continued. "Our youth of the area may stay in the area just for this reason alone."
The Foremost range will eventually be one of only two for training and field testing UAS devices. The other is in Alma, Quebec.
The most appealing reason for locating the centre about 110-kilometres southeast of Lethbridge is its topography, with flat prairie land that provides an extensive line-of-sight, said Kultgen. The fact that it will be located away from urban and industrial areas also provides greater opportunity for unobstructed testing.
All projects included in this first round of CARE funding were selected to help position the region as a destination for investment and tourism, while also diversifying local economies, providing training opportunities and exploring environmentally friendly business.
The other projects that were part of Friday's announcement include:
- $25,000 to the Town of Claresholm for its "Defining a Promise" project;
- $10,000 to the Village of Champion for its commercial sustainability project;
- $50,000 to the Vulcan Business Development Society for its industrial land strategy for the Vulcan business park;
- $65,000 to the Vulcan Brand Innovation Society for "Operation Communicate, Accelerate and Collaborate";
- $25,000 to the Town of Magrath for the sustainable agriculture education partnership; and
- $50,000 to the Town of Taber for the southern Alberta regional MRF feasibility study.
- $300,000 to the Village of Foremost for phase two of its unmanned aerial systems range project;
- $25,000 to the City of Brooks for the development of a tourism operator business plan;
- $25,000 to the City of Brooks for its business incubator project; and
- $20,000 to the Town of Drumheller for the "Drumheller Roars" campaign.
The second intake for the CARES program is open from now until May 31, 2017. You can find the eligibility criteria at jobsplan.alberta.ca.
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