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Red Deer and District Today


The 1980s started out well enough. In 1980, Alberta celebrated its 75th Anniversary while the province was doling out money to municipalities to spend on special events and building projects. However, a severe economic recession began to sweep through Alberta by the early 1980s. Red Deer and district, like other parts of Alberta, was deeply impacted by a sharp decline in petroleum prices, the National Energy Policy (NEP), and steep hikes in interest rates. Such policies created poor conditions for business growth and investment, scaring off new prospects, particularly in oil-related industries. By 1984, the City of Red Deer's rate of economic growth had dropped to less than a fifth of what it had been in 1981.

Red Deer did not recover from the recession until the late 1980s. While its industries remained largely unproductive, public projects began to take centre stage. The extensive Waskasoo Park along the Red Deer River Valley was under major development in the late 1980s, complete with hiking and bicycle paths. In 1985, the Fort Normandeau Interpretive Centre was built at the Old Crossing, where Red Deer's business centre used to lie. In 1988, Red Deer celebrated its 75th anniversary of its incorporation as a city by dedicating the Heritage Square, a "museum of buildings" featuring five historical structures including the Stevenson-Hall Block, the Presbyterian Church Steeple, the Aspelund Laft Hus, the Gaetz Library and a replica of Red Deer's first school.

Aerial City of Red Deer in 90s

After the economic hiccups of the 1980s, Central Alberta saw considerable growth through the 1990s and the new millennium, particularly in its urban centres. The construction booms have benefited the real estate industry, which is represented in the area by the Red Deer & District Real Estate Board Co-Op Ltd, serving approximately 600 real estate brokers and 60 real estate offices (as of 2009) in Clear Water, Camrose, Ponoka, Lacombe, Red Deer, Stettler, Mountain View, Sylvan Lake, Rocky Mountain House and Kneehill. Central Alberta is also served by the Central Alberta Economic Partnership (CAEP), an economic development agency of 42 Central Alberta communities, existing to facilitate collaboration amongst these communities.

In recent years, Red Deer and district has seen steady growth.

The City of Camrose continues to serve an important role in central Alberta's economy, as a regional centre for the east-central corridor of the province. Camrose's population exceeds 16,000 residents in the city proper. Its steady population growth is partly due to its lower land and building costs, which make housing more affordable.

Agriculture remains the backbone of central Alberta's economy. The towns of Stettler and Lacombe are both dependant on the agricultural industry. Lacombe has seen rapid growth within the past few years, with a population of 9,385 in 2001 up to 10,850 in 2006. Stettler, which is also an important centre for the oil and gas industries, has grown from 5,418 in 2006 to 5,843 in 2008.

The Town of Ponoka is somewhat of an anomaly, considering its primary industry is neither agricultural or oil and gas-based. The Alberta Hospital, renamed the Centennial Centre for Mental Health and Brain Injury in 2006, continues to be the town's largest employer, providing work for 800 residents in a town with a population of approximately 6,500.

The Town of Sylvan Lake, Central Alberta’s all season playground, serves over 1.5 million visitors every year. The town has experienced rapid growth in rapid years. As of 2007, Sylvan Lake has a population of approximately 10,800 residents. Sylvan Lake’s residential real estate position is unique in that many of its housing units are seasonal cottages, not used as permanent residents. However, the population of permanent residents is on the rise. One of Sylvan Lake’s prominent features is the Sylvan Lake Marina, home to a lighthouse, restaurant, boating facilities and docks. While Sylvan Lake has many lake-based activities, the town also attracts tourists through its many golf courses and its Wild Rapids Waterslide, the largest outdoor waterslide in western Canada.

Rocky Mountain House was economically stagnant throughout the 1980s. In the 1990s, and especially in the 2000s, the town has seen significant growth. Between 1996 and 2007, the population rose form 5,805 to 7,231, with the bulk of the population growth occurring in the 2000s. The oil industry plays an important part in the town’s economy; Rocky Mountain House is the hub of petroleum transportation in the area. Increasingly, tourism has come to play an important part in the economy. The town is central Alberta’s gateway to the Rocky Mountains. The Rocky Mountain House area is also home to two national historic sites – the Rocky Mountain House National Historic site, featuring the archeological remains of old fur trading posts in the area, and the Brazeau Collieries at Nordegg, a historic coal mining town located near Rocky Mountain House. The lumber industry continues to be vital to the town’s economy; one of the top employers in the area is West Fraser Mills Ltd., which employs approximately 200 people at their mill.

As the distribution and transportation capital of central Alberta, Red Deer has benefited the most from Alberta's robust economy in the past two decades. In the 1990s, Red Deer's population growth was one of the highest in Alberta, so much so that it exceeded Lethbridge's population and became the third largest city in Alberta, with a population of 85,705 in 2007. Red Deer has risen in standing partly because of the rapid growth of its trading partners Edmonton and Calgary. But also, Red Deer's City Council has been committed to attracting industry to the city by removing business taxes; Red Deer has some of the lowest taxes in the country. Red Deer also benefits from its mixed economy, drawing strength from the agricultural and oil and gas industries.


Central Alberta Economy Partnership. “About CAEP.” Retrieved October 27, 2008 from www.centralalberta.ab.ca.

Central Alberta Economic Partnership. “City of Wetaskiwin Fact Sheet.” Retrieved October 27, 2008, from www.centralalberta.ab.ca.

Central Alberta Economic Partnership. “Town of Lacombe Fact Sheet.” Retrieved October 27, 2008, from www.centralalberta.ab.ca.

Central Alberta Economic Partnership. “Town of Ponoka Fact Sheet.” Retrieved October 27, 2008, from www.centralalberta.ab.ca.

Central Alberta Economic Partnership. “Town of Stettler Fact Sheet.” Retrieved October 27, 2008, from www.centralalberta.ab.ca.

Central Alberta REALTORS® Association. “Who are We.” Retrieved October 27, 2008 from www.rdreb.ca.

City of Camrose. “Mayor's Message.” Retrieved October 27, 2008 from www.camrose.com - Welcome.

Dawe, Michael. Red Deer: An Illustrated History. Red Deer and District Museum Society, the City of Red Deer Archives and the Red Deer Visitor and Convention Bureau, 1996.

The City of Red Deer. “Economic and Demographic Profile.” Retrieved October 27, 2008 from www.city.red-deer.ab.ca - Connecting with Your City.

Sylan Lake Chamber of Commerce. “A Brief History of Sylvan Lake.” Retrieved March 27, 2009 from http://www.sylvanlakechamber.com/history.htm

Town of Rocky Mountain House. “Demographics.” Retrieved March 30, 2009 from http://www.rockymtnhouse.com/town-demo.htm

Town of Rocky Mountain House. “Key Industries.” Retrieved March 30, 2009 from http://www.rockymtnhouse.com/Word-pdf/key-industries.pdf

Town of Sylvan Lake. “A Town for All Seasons – Sylvan Lake: Growth Strategy.” September, 2008. Retrieved March 27, 2009 from http://www.town.sylvan-lake.ab.ca/press-release/Sylvan-Lake-Growth-Strategy.pdf

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