DIDSBURY - The Town of Didsbury will continue to be a member of the Central Alberta Economic Partnership (CAEP) for at least another year, councillors decided at last week’s regularly scheduled council meeting.
The decision comes nine months after council voted to give notice of the town’s intention not to renew its membership after 2021.
CAEP is made up of municipal representatives, business owners, and others in central Alberta. It promotes economic development and member networking, with the board of directors responsible for providing strategic direction.
The town’s 2021 annual fee to belong to the organization is $0.55 per capita, or about $3,000 for Didsbury.
In December council passed a motion authorizing administration to give notice through an exit letter that the municipality was withdrawing from CAEP.
“I don’t think it’s value for our money,” mayor Rhonda Hunter said at the time. “We’ve been in it a long time and when we are still questioning why we are in it; that says a lot. After three years of our term, we are still asking what the benefit of it is.”
She said the $3,000 memberships fee could be better directed to “more valuable use, like our economic development advisory committee, for training and consultations and workshops. We can direct that money there.”
Asked at the time if the town would reconsider its decision to leave within the next year, she said, “We have our economic development officer (EDO) doing some research and touching base with other EDOs in our area.
“If the report comes back from our EDO that there is value and if (the officer) can convince council that there is value, then we will reconsider.”
During last week’s council meeting, councillors heard that the town’s new EDO has now reviewed and explored the benefits of remaining the organization and concluded that it would be a benefit to the town to retain its membership.
In a briefing note to council, administration outlined some of the benefits of membership, including being part of an upcoming post pandemic business relaunch program that CAEP will be involved in.
A tourism product development assessment project planned for 2022 may also benefit the town.
“The aim is to provide an assessment of tourism inventory and readiness for the CAEP region for he purpose of facilitating tourism investment in the region. It is not intended to provide detailed feasibility or business plans for all or some tourism operators in the region. The end goal is to attract tourism investment to the region.”
Mayor Hunter says continuing with the CAEP membership will allow the town to further examine the benefits of membership.
“What the EDO would like to do is postpone our withdrawal and have some interactions and network opportunities with CAEP,” said Hunter.
“We agreed that should do the review. I really think that is what we needed. The EDO knows what to look for and what would be of benefit to our region.”
Councillors voted to renew the membership and review the matter again at the time renewal in 2023.