Leading Saskatchewan in Growth

The City of Estevan

The city’s Economic Development Officer, Manpreet Sangha, tells us about the exciting new projects that are changing the face of Estevan, and how the city is adapting to this booming and diverse economy.

The Energy City

Dubbed “the Energy City”, Estevan is at the centre of several important power-generating facilities such as the Rafferty Dam and the coal-fired Shand and Boundary Dam power stations. The DEEP (Deep Earth Energy Production) project – Saskatchewan’s very first geothermal plant – will soon join the pack, with construction set to begin in the next two years. The region’s incredibly diverse economy (coal, oil, gas, agriculture, retail, real estate and tourism, among others) has inspired the city with a two-fold mission: to encourage and promote economic development, and to provide the community with the amenities and services it needs.

Although Estevan and its surroundings are already flourishing, the city still actively pursues opportunities for business attraction, retention and expansion. “Estevan is known as a mining, oil and power generating city with a very strong entrepreneurial spirit,” explains Ms. Sangha. “We try to see how businesses are doing, and what we need to do for them to expand.”

Furthermore, the city of Estevan works in close collaboration with its Chamber of Commerce and the R.M. (Rural Municipality) of Estevan №5 to promote the area and ensure a good quality of life for all residents. Through their joint website (http://www.estevaneconomicdevelopment.ca/) and occasional advertising throughout Canada and the United States, they aim to make a brand of Estevan and create awareness for the abundance of business opportunities in the region.

The city and the R.M. also share a number of agreements regarding water distribution, landfills, sanitation, residential development policies, as well as recreational, cultural and economic development. “The city of Estevan and the R.M. of Estevan share a cordial relationship,” explains Ms. Sangha, and the close collaboration between the city and the municipality ensures that all parties are working together to reach their common goals. “The R.M. of Estevan has its own community plan,” adds Ms. Sangha. “The plan outlines the criteria for development and identifies the key areas where growth is to be seen. So the R.M. has the support of the infrastructure, and [it] is very easy to deal with.”

Major Developments

The arrival of several large-scale developments in the area promises to bring even more positive change to the city in the years to come. The Boundary Dam’s Integrated Carbon Capture and Storage Project, a SaskPower initiative, is set to be completed in August 2014. Touted as the world’s “first and largest project of its kind,” renovations and a major update of the facility will allow the Boundary Dam Station to improve its efficiency while drastically reducing its carbon footprint.

The DEEP (Deep Earth Energy Production) Corporation, based in Saskatchewan, will also be revolutionizing the Estevan area in the near future. A pioneering project for Canada, the DEEP geothermal plant “will cost around 35 million dollars and will have five megawatts of generating capacity… [It] will tap into the heat resources underneath oil and natural gas fields in southeast Saskatchewan,” explains Ms. Sangha. The DEEP power plant will rely solely on the sustainable power supply found beneath the surface. The project is currently in its design phase, and construction should begin in the Estevan area within the next two years.

A City First: the Estevan Energy Expo

Being surrounded by so many different power generating sources, it is only fitting that Estevan be the host of an important event for the major actors of these connected industries. Estevan’s Energy Expo was inaugurated in June this year by the city’s Chamber of Commerce. The three-day event, which included networking sessions, conferences, a trade show and a tour of several nearby facilities, proved to be a success. “Being the first time, we were quite happy with the interest of the attendees,” shares Ms. Sangha. “We had about 120 conference attendees who were interested in listening to the speakers, and 40 companies that set up at the exhibitor booths.” Speakers such as Ms. Kirsten Marcia, President and CEO of the DEEP Corporation, gave presentations about their respective domains. Pleased with the outcome, the city’s Chamber of Commerce has decided to turn the Estevan Energy Expo into a biennial event, the next one scheduled for 2016.

Overcoming Growing Pains

Not surprisingly, Estevan’s industrial boom has attracted hundreds of men and women to this wealth of employment opportunities. The city’s unemployment rate is remarkably low: 3.8 percent for 2012, against approximately 7.3 percent in Canada for the same year. In 2013, the major influx of people created a shortage of rental properties available in the area, causing Estevan’s rental vacancy rate to hit zero. In the past year, however, the city has focused on turning those numbers around, and their efforts have been met with great success. “The city of Estevan now has a Housing Business Plan that was put together by the Saskatchewan branch of the Canadian Homebuilder’s Association,” points out Ms. Sangha. “Within the city limits, around 595 new homes have been built over the past five years, and we are still building new homes in order to increase our rental vacancy rate.”

Indeed, with several new housing developments and work camps being built all around the city, and new construction phases already planned for the near future, the housing crisis seems to have been overcome. A recent report sets the current rental vacancy rate at around 5.5 percent, a great accomplishment for the city of Estevan. “There is a considerable amount of rental housing available [now], so we have overcome that challenge,” says Ms. Sangha. “We are pretty happy about it.”

“Come Energize Estevan!”

Besides coordinating the changes brought on by this fast-growing economy, Estevan’s Chamber of Commerce has also been hard at work promoting the city as a fun and unique tourism destination. Boasting some of the longest hours of sunlight in Canada, the “Sunshine Capital of Saskatchewan” holds an annual party at the nearby Boundary Dam Reservoir Beach. Each summer, residents flock to the Beach Bash for a day of fun and entertainment. The event, hosted by Tourism Estevan, features volleyball, a beer garden, treasure hunts, water games, fireworks, and many other activities. “It’s quite a popular event in the area, it attracts a lot of tourists,” notes Ms. Sangha.

The city has also been banking on the industrial tourism trend to promote tours of the impressive power-generating facilities in the area. Estevan’s tourism centre offers tours of the Rafferty Dam, the Shand Green House and the Shand Power Station every day of the week, from May through August. The city hopes to expand these tours in the future by adding visits to the DEEP geothermal plant and the Carbon Capture Project once the facilities are up and running. Not surprisingly, industrial tourism seems to be a good match for Estevan. Thanks to its various facilities, the city is a great destination for anyone interested in energy production and engineering.

Invest, Work, Live

It certainly appears as though the city of Estevan, the R.M. and the Chamber of Commerce’s hard work has paid off. Attracted by the general aura of prosperity in the area and an enticing tax exemption program for residential and commercial development, several businesses have started to sprout in Estevan. From restaurants to stores to residential developers, more and more lots are being purchased by the private sector every year.

Estevan has also adapted remarkably well to its rapidly increasing population. Numerous services and amenities are offered to residents, including kindergartens, schools, nursing homes and a hospital. For entertainment and culture, citizens have more than one destination to choose from: the city is home to a golf club, a theatre, an arena and an art gallery, among other elements. And it seems that Estevanites are more than happy to contribute to the city’s boom. As Ms. Sangha explains, there are two sides to the name of “Energy City”: on one side, the power generation and economic aspect, and on the other, the energy and the passion of the residents.

“The people who live here are energetic; they have a passion to live here, they have a passion for working and a passion for living,” she shares. “Estevan is not just an industrial city; the industry is just a part of the city’s concept.” Thanks to the countless resources in the area and the innovative projects underway, there is no doubt that Estevan and its residents will continue to enjoy impressive growth in the years to come.

July 17, 2018, 7:17 AM EDT

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