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Small Business & Innovation a Driving Force of Lethbridge's Economy

May 28, 2018
EDL is in the business of building community, serving as passionate stewards of the economic strategy for the city. With comprehensive market data, a network of partners and a committed team, we work together to support business retention and growth; investment attraction; entrepreneur training and development as well as marketing and advocacy.

New data from the This Is Lethbridge. A Bright Choice for Economic Diversity report outlines economic indicators in areas related to business, entrepreneurship, population and quality of life.
Stability in traditional sectors, growth of emerging industries and strength in the public sector has created a positive environment for continued diversification and bright opportunities.

The proof is in the numbers. For example, while Alberta was suffering through a recession in 2016 with the economy contracting by 3.6 per cent, Lethbridge headed in the opposite direction. GDP of $5.5 billion in the city represented 2.6 per cent economic growth. 

Lethbridge has become the southern Alberta hub for both traditional industries and emerging technologies. Innovation is driving change in key sectors such as agriculture, food sciences and manufacturing.

A strong economy has provided employment opportunities for a talented labour force and in 2017 Lethbridge’s unemployment rate remained the lowest among mid-to-large sized cities in Alberta.

Those economic factors have led to healthy investment in the city as confidence moving forward is strong. In 2017, total building permit value in Lethbridge was $313.5 million, the second highest annual total on record. There are also more than $1 billion in major development projects either planned or underway in the next three years.

That is reason to be optimistic about a bright future.

Another reason is the small business focus which is a key driver of the local economy. Industry Canada says small businesses in Alberta contribute 32 per cent of the provincial GDP and in Lethbridge, 51% of businesses have 4 or less employees. We also know that Alberta small businesses with incubator support have an average 25 per cent growth rate, compared to the national average of five per cent.

Moving forward, support for new businesses and startups is critical. Through programs and services available at the Tecconnect centre for entrepreneurship and innovation, the University of Lethbridge’s AGILITY program and the Regional Innovation Network of Southern Alberta (just to name a few) there is tremendous opportunity for businesses in Lethbridge to embrace innovation, grow and expand. Since opening in 2011, the companies in Tecconnect have created 165 new jobs with a combined incremental payroll of just over $5 million. Of those employed, 57 per cent are Lethbridge post-secondary graduates.

Lethbridge is a city brimming with youthful energy and a growing young talent pool thanks to its two post-secondary institutions - the University of Lethbridge and Lethbridge College. That’s a rarity for a city of this size. And each year more than 3,200 students graduate from those institutions offering employers a strong pool of labour. 

The city’s population is growing on average two per cent each year over the past five years and about one quarter of the adult population is under 34 years old. Employment opportunities are obviously important to sustain population growth but quality of life is becoming more and more important to people choosing location.

This is where Lethbridge excels.

For example, a survey of Western Canadian Census Metropolitan Areas (CMA) found that Lethbridge ranked first with 48 per cent of people saying their daily commute duration was less than 15 minutes. Also, among Western Canada CMAs Lethbridge had the lowest dwelling to income ratio making it an affordable choice for housing.

There is also family-friendly new infrastructure like the ATB Centre, Legacy Park and the Destination Project at the University of Lethbridge that continues to create new opportunities for residents that enhance quality of life.

The latest data supports it. Lethbridge truly has become a ‘bright choice’ for people - and companies – to set down roots to live, work and play.

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