Opportunities and Challenges in Sustainability and Economic Development


February 20, 2020 :: Bev Thornton
Moderated by Melinda Weston

Alberta SouthWest Regional Economic Development (AlbertaSW) is a partnership of 16 towns, villages and rural municipal districts bordering on BC and MT. Key sectors of the economy in the region are agriculture, renewable energy and tourism. All these industries require consideration of the natural resources and landscapes, creating a natural focus on sustainability,

In 2007, in collaboration with National Geographic, AlbertaSW was a founding partner of the transboundary Crown of the Continent Geotourism Council, which highlights sustainable tourism business development.

In 2006, AlbertaSW, Economic Development Lethbridge and SouthGrow formed the Southern Alberta Alternative Energy Partnership (SAAEP). Representing 39 municipalities in south west and south-central Alberta, SAAEP supports member municipalities to explore opportunities in renewable energy (solar, wind, bio) and clean technology. The “Peaks to Prairies” Electric Vehicle Charging Station Network, a “current” project, so to speak, is a multi municipal/industry partnership that evolved from this focus on sustainability.

Economic development organizations strive to understand economic costs and benefits. SAAEP has gathered information on new solar and wind projects to illustrate the value of local energy assets. The total capital expenditure of the nine projects in progress (6 solar, 3 wind) is $1.56 billion dollars. Regional economic impacts, from a combination of factors (annual land lease revenues, tax assessment for municipalities, construction, ongoing operations jobs) is estimated at $239M dollars between 2019 and 2022.

Speaker: Bev Thornton

Bev Thornton is the Executive Director of Alberta SouthWest Regional Alliance, a partnership of 16 rural municipalities. She has worked with this group since its inception 2000 and is proud of the community commitment. The organization has received over 30 provincial, national and international awards for projects that work to advance economic development in key industry sectors in the southwest region: agriculture, renewable energy, clean technology and tourism. Alberta SouthWest Crown of the Continent has been named as a “Top 100 Global Sustainable Tourism Destination” for 2019.

Bev is Past President of Economic Developers Alberta (EDA) and at the 2017 Annual Conference and Awards Banquet of the International Economic Development Council (IEDC) she was awarded the prestigious Jeffery A. Finkle Organizational Leadership Award. Bev is the first recipient of this award outside of the US. In 2018, AlbertaSW became the first IEDC Accredited Economic Development Organization (AEDO) in Alberta and one of only 4 in Canada.

Moderator: Melinda Weston

Date: Thursday, February 20, 2020
Time: Doors open 11:30 am, presentation 12 noon, buffet lunch 12:30 pm, Q&A 1 – 1:30 pm
Location: Royal Canadian Legion (please enter at north door) 324 Mayor Magrath Dr. S. Lethbridge
Cost: $14 buffet lunch with dessert/coffee/tea/juice or $2 coffee/tea/juice. RSVP not required


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