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Population growth is interesting but when will we get a Red Lobster?

Jul 3, 2019
Much has been said already this week about Lethbridge busting through the 100,000 mark for population. We have a long history of jockeying for position with our friends in Red Deer for the title of Alberta’s third largest municipality and once again we have taken back the crown. With 101,482 people counted in Lethbridge we have gained an ever so slight advantage over Red Deer that has a 2019 municipal census count of 101,002.  

One of Lethbridge’s greatest assets is its diverse and dynamic population. Over the past five years, our population has grown on average by about two percent a year. To put that in perspective, that’s about 150 new arrivals each month. With more than a quarter of the adult population under the age of 34, Lethbridge has a very distinct youthful energy. 

Overall, Lethbridge has a well-balanced demographic profile and a healthy mix of youth, workforce and seniors in the community. As home to two post-secondary institutions, a rarity for a city of our size, Lethbridge is a true campus community with more than 3,200 students who graduate from Lethbridge College and the University of Lethbridge each year. 

Lethbridge has historically had a stable and steady population growth curve and this year’s growth rate of 1.7% is well within that pattern. Predictable growth is important because it helps governments plan for and fund future infrastructure as well as other community facilities. Predictable growth also allows businesses to forecast future needs and understand where adjustment to strategies or further investment might be required. 

One of the most common questions that I receive anytime new census results are released is when will we see a Red Lobster, Olive Garden or Ikea come to town? The short answer is not soon. Red Lobster, for example, typically does not enter a market until there are at least half a million people and for Ikea, generally, a region must have closer to one million prospective customers. So even with achieving our recent population milestone and considering the broader region or trade area that Lethbridge serves of almost 345,000 people – we still have a way to go to attract some of the more iconic so called large format brand names. 

However, we have many amazing local restaurants, retailers and other talented service providers that make up the more than 5,000 businesses that call the city home. Studies show that when you spend one dollar locally that it has an impact of more than seven dollars in total as local businesses pay staff, buy supplies and give back to their communities. 

While we may not yet have lured Red Lobster, our low cost of living, mild climate, short commute times and wide range of recreation and cultural activities means Lethbridge has something for everyone to achieve a balance of work and life.

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