Big Lakes County has dropped out of a government program created to attract foreign workers to help local businesses fill job vacancies.
At its June 14 meeting, council passed a motion to remove the county from the Rural Renewal Stream of the Alberta Advantage Immigration Program, as it’s called.
Last fall, the region of High Prairie and the county was recognized as a designated community under the program. However, county admin. has discovered that the work is beyond the capacity of county staff.
Making the report to council, county director of community and protective services Brett Hawken said the workload “seemed feasible.” But it has “increased tremendously, due to the enormous amount of interest in the program.”
Hawken estimated admin time of 10 – 15 hours per week. The program has value, he added. But another way is going to have to be found. He suggested interested businesses approach the Chamber of Commerce.
Around 10 businesses attended a meeting in April to discuss a proposal to hire an economic development officer to manage the program. At that meeting the county proposed a full-time position, at an estimated annual cost of $148,000. The county suggested businesses contribute up to $5,000 apiece to make it happen.
“We’ve got to find a way to make this work,” said High Prairie mayor Brian Panasiuk at that April meeting.
by Richard Froese