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Innisfail approves designated immigration partnership with neighbours

Bowden and Olds get green light from Innisfail council to come under its “umbrella” as a designated community under Alberta Advantage Immigration’s Rural Renewal Stream.
Gordon Shaw, manager of community development services for the Town of Innisfail, says the new designated community partnership with the towns of Olds and Bowden is a "good news story" for the region. Johnnie Bachusky/MVP Staff

INNISFAIL – The Town of Innisfail has officially opened its doors for neighbours Bowden and Olds to be under the umbrella of its newly approved provincial program that can offer easier and faster recruitment access to immigrant workers.

On Feb. 13, Innisfail town council approved a motion to include Bowden and Olds under the Town of Innisfail’s approved community designation under Alberta Advantage Immigration’s Rural Renewal Stream.

Under this provincial program businesses can look at recruiting potential employees from overseas to be able to fulfill skill requirements; a mechanism to potentially increase the number of potential employees within the community for large potential work projects, like what is envisioned for Innisfail’s new Southwest Industrial Park.

While Innisfail achieved provincial designation last summer for the Rural Renewal Stream, Olds and Bowden had not yet qualified.

Both communities then reached out to Innisfail to see if it was possible to come under the “umbrella” of its approved designation.

On Jan. 23, the Town of Olds council approved a motion to approve a partnership with the Town of Innisfail as a designated community under the Rural Renewal Stream.

“The Town of Olds believes that regional collaboration is essential to economic growth,” said Brent Williams, chief administrative officer for the Town of Olds in a Jan. 25 letter to Alberta Labour and Immigration.

Williams’ letter was included in the agenda package for Innisfail's council on Feb. 13 when Gordon Shaw, manager of community development services, sought council’s approval to include Bowden and Olds under the Town of Innisfail’s approved community designation.

“A partnership with Innisfail as the lead community will allow local businesses to benefit from the expanded access to labour the Rural Renewal Stream offers,” said Williams. “The Town of Olds will shoulder any additional time and resources this partnership requires.”

Olds’ efforts to partner under Innisfail’s designation received the support from Red Deer’s Care for Newcomers organization, an agency that provides a full range of settlement and integration services in Central Alberta.

“We understand this application aims to enable the community to work with employers to attract and recruit newcomers and collaborate with a settlement providing organization to retain newcomers by sharing information on settlement supports,” said Frank Bauer, the agency’s executive director in a Jan. 16 letter that was also part of Innisfail council’s agenda package.

“When approved, we look forward to partnering with the municipality to address current labour needs and skill shortages in this rural Central Alberta community and help successful newcomer settlement.”

Shaw said there was not a formal letter available from the Town of Bowden but emails exchanged with its senior administration indicated a “very strong interest” to come under the program.

“So, it's a good news story for the community and for the region,” Shaw told council.

In his presentation to Innisfail council Shaw made it clear that administrations from both Bowden and Olds would be responsible for providing the program to their own communities, and that Innisfail’s role is strictly as the designated host community.

“What it means is that in essence they're just using our name to be able to provide their employers community support letters. They are the ones who will be doing the work associated with preparing those letters,” Shaw told council. “They are benefiting from this on the standpoint that we've done the heavy lifting to be able to get designated.”

Innisfail mayor Jean Barclay said she was “extremely happy” for the town to be partnering with both Olds and Bowden, noting there is currently a “huge” labour shortage issue.

“I’m looking forward to this program being successful and hopefully helping in that area, and bringing some new people into our community and welcoming them to our community,” said Barclay. “And having a diverse population, it brings a lot of attributes.”


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