Page 151

of people to the city to obtain medical treatment is gaining traction. The city recently began promoting tourism and formed an arm’s-length destination marketing organization,, devised a sport tourism plan, and funded new facilities, including a new hospital. The increasingly diverse economy of Grande Prairie continues to be susceptible to population concentrations and intense sector-specific economic fluctuations, often with wide-ranging and broad repercussions. The cost of living and doing business oscillates on a habitual basis. In a reactionary manner, much operates according to demand. For example, oil and gas remain the most important yet most volatile sectors upon which much of the large transient labour force within the city relies. As a result, multiple other sectors are indirectly and directly tied to the industry. Although the oil and gas industry is often credited with driving the growth, it is vulnerable to production costs. When commodity prices rise, an influx of producers fills supply gaps. When commodity prices fall, demand decreases, unemployment increases, and much of the city’s economic activity stalls. While it varies in scale, this re-occurrence affects housing vacancy and prices, as well as the hotel and accommodation sector, which provides a large amount of the transient workforce’s temporary housing. Utilities serve as another example. Commercial energy costs in and around Grande Prairie are not calculated according to usage, but are instead charged in proportion to demand. A “boom”, a spike in consumption, therefore equates to a significant increase in the cost of doing business. Conversely, enrolment rates at Grande Prairie Regional College spike during downturns, and likewise fall when the demand for high-paying trade jobs rebound. At the same time, some criticize the lack of professionals and “local thinkers”, which they explain could help address urban sprawl, a high crime rate, and traffic issues, all characteristics commonly said to detract from the prosperity of the city and its hinterland. Beyond these issues, interviewees also expressed a common desire for additional entertainment options for the fast growing city in Alberta, more investments in education to support future generations, an international customs centre at the regional airport, and improved roads and infrastructure for vehicular traffic. The rapid growth of Grande Prairie has led to the development of the city as a dynamic social and economic hub in northern Alberta. Yet, development and the pace of change have given rise to new challenges as well as exacerbated more longstanding tensions. Challenges to the sustainability and resiliency of a community can be equally concerning during boom periods as they are during times Part IV: Boom/Bust:Moving forwards: Strategy-making

139

Profile for University of Alberta Extension

Boom & Bust: A Guide, Managing Ups and Downs in Communities  

Boom and Bust: A Guide is the result of a collective effort at the University of Alberta to better understand the dramatic ups and downs whi...

Boom & Bust: A Guide, Managing Ups and Downs in Communities  

Boom and Bust: A Guide is the result of a collective effort at the University of Alberta to better understand the dramatic ups and downs whi...

Advertisement