The Estevan Chamber of Commerce has released its economic development plan – a document that will provide the chamber with guidance in the years to come.
The plan has three overarching priorities. The first is investment, attraction and promotion. The others are labour recruitment and retention; and business growth, development and retention.
Within each priority, there are three specific initiatives.
"We'll be working in the coming years on those nine … initiatives that we have highlighted," said economic development officer Manpreet Sangha.
In terms of investment, attraction and promotion, the three initiatives are: hosting an Estevan Energy Expo, with the first such event happening next year; adding more entertainment, retail and shopping opportunities to encourage more people to shop locally; and attending trade shows and conferences that will put the chamber before potential investors and entrepreneurs.
For labour, attraction and retention, the initiatives are: getting a better pipeline for the student workforce with internship programs that take advantage of the students at the Estevan Comprehensive School and the Southeast Regional College; attracting more international students to work in the community; and an employee retention strategy, which is something that the chamber has been looking at previously.
Executive director Michel Cyrenne said he was surprised with a couple of the priorities chosen by the plan's committee.
"I think they're phenomenal ideas," said Cyrenne. "They're a little more far-reaching, and very much long-term solutions."
Sangha said that the student workforce idea would only be implemented once Estevan's housing issue is resolved, and the city has enough available accommodations.
"We'll be approaching the various universities, first of all in Saskatchewan and then in other provinces, and talking to the respective departments, and then suggesting that a student, as part of their program, should be sent to Estevan," said Sangha.
International students would come to study in Estevan for one to three years, and then work in Estevan for another two or three years, she said.
Cyrenne said the housing issue has been an impediment for attracting people to the community, but he is seeing some progress with the issue.
The third priority of business growth, development and retention focuses existing business. Sangha said there will be business expansion and retention surveys on an annual basis; a continued effort to tout Estevan as a hub for energy businesses; and promotion of the community provincially, nationally and internationally.
"We have an incredible story to tell, and I think it's important that we promote that story outside of our own borders, to ensure that people know that Estevan has the clean coal project going on, we have the Bakken going on, we have the great agricultural community and a lot more," said Cyrenne.
Cyrenne said they already have one excellent asset – the Chamber's website, which has drawn rave reviews from those outside the community.
Some of the initiatives in the economic development plan are already underway, he said. Others, like the Energy Expo, will take to shape next year. And some, like the emphasis on international students, will have a two or three-year scope.
"That way, business and industry will know exactly where we are, and councils, both the City and the RM, will be able to gage the work that we're doing," said Cyrenne.
Sangha said that the plan was needed, because it helps the chamber understand the direction it is headed in, and what needs to happen in the future.
There are four other goals that will be studied in the long-term, Sangha said: social and environmental development, infrastructure spending priorities, downtown revitalization and supply of land optimization.
"We don't say that we won't be giving any attention to them, but we will be prioritizing our three goals, and once these goals are accomplished, we will start working on the other four goals," said Sangha.
It would be hard to place a timeline on when they will start working on them, Cyrenne said.
Cyrenne said the chamber started working on the plan about 18 months ago, and it took a lot of time to complete the background research, identify the goals and priorities, meet with different groups to get their input, and to finalize the goals.