Big Lakes County ponders hemp processing possibilities

Among other economic development ideas

Richard Froese
For the Lakeside Leader

A hemp processing plant is one of the business ideas being tossed around over in Big Lakes County. The Big Lakes County Economic Development Authority (EDA) is also talking about promoting agriculture generally, the energy field and small business.
These ideas were presented to county council by Lisa Baroldi of the EDA at its Dec. 13 meeting. She said the plan is to establish ‘action groups’ to look into each of these areas.
“An action group is about getting things done,” she said.
Baroldi also spoke about grant opportunities.
“The Northern Alberta Hemp Processing Industry project is a $1.1 million, two-year initiative to position northern Alberta as a hub for hemp processing and production,” she told council. “The region has a global advantage for producing long hemp fibre crops, due to long daylight hours.”
That caught the attention of reeve Ken Matthews.
“It’s something we should certainly look into,” he said. “It’s bio-degradable and stronger than fibreglass.”
Matthews said the Ag Service Board and local farmers should be consulted in the process.
Baroldi agreed, and added: “We want to talk with people in the hemp industry before we move forward,” she said. “We want to pursue the right things with support from the county and the region. We have a lot of opportunities in agriculture and we want to get the right people together to move forward.”
The authority also plans to establish individual action groups, one of them to move a broadband project forward.
“Growth is likely to come from local existing businesses rather than new businesses,” Baroldi said.
Baroldi added that a survey of small businesses was being planned. The authority continues to take small steps on its priorities as it waits for the results of a grant application.

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