Big Lakes ponders hemp processing plant

Richard Froese
South Peace News

A hemp processing plant and action groups to develop and promote agriculture, the energy field and small business have been presented as top priorities to boost the economy in Big Lakes County in 2018.

Big Lakes County Economic Development Authority executive director Lisa Baroldi updated council at its regular meeting Dec. 13.

“An action group is about getting things done,” Baroldi says.

Proposed priorities are pending provincial funding under the Community and Regional Economic Support grant from the Ministry of Culture and Tourism.

Recently, the county applied for up to $300,000 to build on projects supported by a $59,190 CARES grant awarded in February 2017.

“The Northern Alberta Hemp Processing Industry project is a $1.1 million two-year initiative to position northern Alberta as a hub for hemp processing and production,” Baroldi says.

“The northern Alberta region has a global advantage for producing long hemp fibre crops due to long daylight hours.”

“It’s something we should certainly look at,” says Reeve Ken Matthews.

Council endorses the possibilities.

“It’s biodegradable and stronger than fibreglass.”

He suggests the Agricultural Service Board and local farmers be consulted in the process.

Others with expertise will also be contacted.

“We want to talk with people in the hemp industry before we move forward,” Baroldi says.

“We want to pursue the right things with support from the county and the region.

“We have a lot of opportunities in agriculture and we want to get the right people together to move forward.”

The authority plans to establish individual action groups to move a broadband project forward, to create an energy sector team to improve communications with active energy businesses in the region, and to establish a small business support team of related partners and engage a small-business advisor to work one-on-one with local small business to reach their growth goals.

“More growth is likely to come from local existing businesses rather than from new businesses,” Baroldi says.

“We’re also going to do a survey for small businesses to see what’s happening with small businesses.”

The authority continues to take preliminary steps on the priorities as it waits for a response from the CARES application.

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