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Economic challenges and goals similar for Lethbridge and Great Falls, Montana

Click to play video: 'Economic challenges and goals similar for Lethbridge and Great Falls'
Economic challenges and goals similar for Lethbridge and Great Falls
WATCH: They're divided by an international border, but the economic challenges facing Alberta and the state of Montana are almost identical. The same rings true for a pair of cities in those jurisdictions, where a recent conference highlighted how Lethbridge and Great Falls are facing many of the same obstacles while having their sights set on similar economic goals. Quinn Campbell reports.

Trevor Lewington with Economic Development Lethbridge was the only Canadian speaker at this year’s Montana Economic Developers Association Conference in Great Falls. Lewington said it was a chance to share, listen and learn.

“Most of Montana’s focus areas are very similar to what we are working on. Agri-food plays big, looking at clean tech and renewables plays big, value-added manufacturing and other sectors.

“So, sometimes we think we are special and unique but our neighbours are actually working on similar opportunities as we are,” added Lewington.

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He said on average, Alberta exports just over $2 billion a year in goods to Montana, with the majority comprised of oil- and natural gas-related products.

“Of the $1.6-ish-billon worth of goods that Montana exported, almost $700 million of that came to Canada, and of course Lethbridge is a big destination for that, and likewise the U.S. in general is Alberta’s largest trading partner.”

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Jolene Schalper with the Great Falls Development Authority said Lethbridge is Great Falls’ sister city with important ties.

“We have a lot of Lethbridge companies, Lethbridge has a lot of Great Falls companies and we just want to make sure that we are very intentional these days about that relationship,” added Schalper.

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Transportation and shipping logistics are also key focuses.

“If they can get closer to the border and then if it makes more sense to ship to the port from Canada or if it makes more sense to ship to the port from the U.S., we want to make sure Albertan and Montanan companies have that option,” she added.

While the goals are similar, Lewington says so are the economic challenges.

“Loud and clear: work force. The availability of talent is the number one concern in the business community in Montana, no different than here. In fact, in the state of Montana, across the whole state, they’re forecasting about 45,000 job vacancies and that’s on a state-wide population of a million people,” he added.

Lewington cites tourism as one collaborative success, adding he hopes to see that sector continue to grow.

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