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Southwest looks good: smart to be innovative

By Tim Kalinowski I

f someone were to ask what qualities make up a southwest Saskatchewaner, even the locals would probably be at loss to tell you.

However, one of those traits is clearly adaptability. Southwest communities continue to thrive and survive despite challenges of landscape, prolonged economic strains and changing market conditions.

Another trait would be a sense of self-sufficiency. For much of the region’s history it has been a prosperous, if isolated, corner of the province.

Another quality would be a willingness to innovate. Southwest Saskatchewan residents have never believed in putting all their eggs in one basket. They have set about creating a diversified economy while constantly seeking out better technologies and more effective methods for delivering essential services.

The community of Shaunavon is an example of all these traits. With an expanded and upgraded industrial area, a state of the art landfill and waste management facility and a first rate recreational facility all built within the last ten years, Shaunavon is taking full advantage of its local oil boom. Mayor Sharon Dickie says if there’s any lessons to be learned from the Shaunavon experience it comes down to two things—

having effective, forward-thinking community planning and having a willingness to take a gamble when the potential rewards clearly outweigh the risks involved.

“With this oil boom, we were never guaranteed any length of time,” Dickie explains. “You know, the oil industry comes in and extrapolates the oil and the next thing you know it’s piped away. But we had to take advantage of the times. Our council took some calculated risks by expanding and developing our industrial area, but we also had the foresight to see the opportunity.”

Dickie says infrastructure upgrades came with a heavy cost, but the community now understands the benefit of having them in place for the next generation.

“If you don’t have strong community planning then your community is in danger of losing ground. Innovation is such a key to success in business and in communities. A lot of it is knowing when to gamble, a lot of it is economy-based, but also in this day and age, we’re at the mercy of the entire world and the economy of our neighbours. So it’s not just about your community, it’s also about keeping an eye on the big picture.”

The community of Gull Lake sits at a strategic crossroads of highways and railways in southwest Saskatchewan about equi-distant from the larger

southwest communities of Maple Creek, Shaunavon and Swift Current. It’s an advantage the community is aware of as it has invested in long-term infrastructure which actively supports the town’s transport and oilfield service industries, and the working families who are employed in them. As a result, Gull Lake is going through a babyboom of sorts with many new young families raising children in the community. Gull Lake’s K-12 school has seen a net gain of 30 students in the last year alone, and is one of the only rural schools in the region with a growing student population.

Mayor Blake Campbell says Gull Lake has always understood the importance of re-investing in community institutions to enhance the quality of life for its residents.

“Community buy-in is so important,” Campbell says. “We’re blessed with a progressive, young community that is trying to work toward the ultimate goal of preparing for what is happening around us in the booming Saskatchewan economy.”

Campbell says Gull Lake is a service community which understands the importance of a regional outlook and seeing how that can be an advantage to its own local economy.

“You have to work together. Even if you look at the

Swift Current Mayor Jerrod Schafer Photo by Tim Kalinowski


Gull Lake Mayor Blake Campbell Photo by Tim Kalinowski

Shaunavon Mayor Sharon Dickie Photo by Monique Messiah

Maple Creek Mayor Barry Rudd Photo by Monique Messiah

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