Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Sister Cities

Grande Prairie’s Sister City Agreement with Mazatlan, Mexico will be officially ratified Saturday when its mayor is in our community as part of a three-day visit by a five-member delegation.

The City will play host to the group throughout the weekend with tours of venues profiling economic development, educational and cultural opportunities (see backgrounder).

Presidente Municpal (Mayor) Jorge Abel Lopez Sanchez will be joined by his wife, Perla Sarmiento de Lopez, Presidenta del DIF (an agency similar to our Family and Community Support Services), Sergio Orozco Aceves, Director of Economic Development, Carmen Alicia Soto, Director of Public Relations, and Oscar Burgeno Lizarraga, Director of Planning and Development.

“The arrival of these municipal leaders represents the culmination of two years of relationship building with Mazatlan and we’re delighted this has opened the door to exciting opportunities,” says Mayor Dwight Logan. “Economic diversification is a priority for Grande Prairie. As a growing, vibrant city, we must have a global perspective to continue flourishing and initiatives like this will help pave the way.”

The agreement highlights opportunities for further exchange and co-operation in agriculture, resource development, tourism, education and training, culture, health, sports, environment, and science and technology and provides the potential for either municipality to identify other areas to explore.

“This visit by our Sister City representatives allows us, in a short period of time, to showcase our community and the many qualities it has to offer,” says Jean-Marc Lacasse, Manager of Economic Development. “We have already been approached by businesses considering how they can realize a competitive advantage by working with counterparts in Mazatlan.”

Last month, Lacasse and Carolyn Vasileoui, Grande Prairie Regional College Hospitality and Tourism Program Co-ordinator, undertook an exploratory trade mission to suggest to Mazatlan’s mayor that a formal agreement be signed and to meet with other dignitaries to explore possible partnerships with educational institutions from both communities.

The development of the agreement ties into the City’s Twinning/Sister Cities Policy, which calls for establishment of a global network of business relationships with communities and business groups in strategic market locations and creation of an international awareness of Grande Prairie’s business assets and location benefits.

Like Grande Prairie, Mazatlan is a regional centre. Historical ties revolve around Grande Prairie Rotary clubs providing medical, fire, ambulance, and school bus equipment to that city.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Looking for Input on Transit

As part of our efforts to improve public transportation the City is running a survey to hear your point of view!

Council agreed with me during the budget discussion that the service needs to be expanded - we included purchasing new busses in the 2008 - 2010 budget.

Now we are looking to you the help plan the service. Tell us what you think!

News Release
February 20, 2008

Transit Survey Drives Master Plan

Grande Prairians can have their say on the future of transit service in the community.

A survey on the City's website,, allows transit users and non-customers to provide input, which will be key to finalizing the Transit Master Plan, due for completion by mid-year. Residents are asked to complete the survey by Feb. 29.

GP Transit is working with iTrans Consulting Inc., of Richmond Hill, ON, on the Master Plan, which will address existing and potential new routes, environmental issues, bus replacement schedule, staffing levels, bus shelter placement, and possible transfer terminal sites.

"This survey is part of a comprehensive study we are doing leading up to the Master Plan being finalized," says Audra McKinley, Acting Transit Co-ordinator.

"We have been working on its development since last September and the information from this survey will be very important as it gives participants the opportunity to drive the Master Plan and have a say in future growth in the system.

"We want to know what existing riders like about the service and what they would like to see improved. We also want non-users to tell us why they don't use the service and what would encourage them to do so."

On the online survey, existing users are asked to provide information on how far they need to walk from home to the nearest bus stop, the three main reasons they use GP Transit, and the four improvements that would encourage them to use bus service more frequently.

Non-customers are asked to cite their most frequent mode of transportation, the four main reasons they don't use GP Transit, how close the nearest bus stop is to their home, and what features would encourage them to use the service.

All respondents are asked to comment on the current $2 fare and to indicate their agreement or disagreement with a series of statements. Survey participants are also requested to cite the three most important destinations for transit service and to provide some demographic information.

Respondents can also include commentary on overall service improvements.

Results will be combined with data collected by staff and the outcome of an on-board survey conducted last fall, which indicated passengers are happy overall with the service.

Participants in that survey asked for scheduling improvements, longer hours and an expansion of service areas.

The Transit Master Plan was last updated in 2004. Information quickly became outdated with rapid growth in the City. The new plan will provide direction on expanding service as Grande Prairie arrives at new population levels.

Information from the Integrated Student Transportation Plan, being developed in partnership with the Public and Catholic school systems, will feed into the City's plan.

Four new buses are being introduced in 2008. Two of these will be replacements and two will be new, allowing for additional routes to be developed.

Media enquiries may be directed to:
Audra McKinley
Acting Transit Co-ordinator

Cultural Centre Construction Moving Along

If it's been a while since you've checked out the Cultural Construction Webcam you'll be surprised by the changes on the construction site.

Click HERE for the webcam

Most of the floor has been poured and the steel is finally going up. With the building's skeleton starting to take shape you can really get a sense of just how big the facility is going to be.

Apparently we are still on track for a mid 2009 opening and with the details starting to come into focus I can't wait!

Friday, February 15, 2008

Mountain Pine Beetle Training Centre at GPRC hosts forestry professionals

I've posted on the Pine Beetle before - the following news release from Grande Prairie Regional College shows that this continues to be an ongoing battle:

Gaining an understanding of mountain pine beetle infestation is important to foresters from Mexico to Saskatchewan - and the Alberta Mountain Pine Beetle Training Centre at Grande Prairie Regional College is providing that opportunity. The MPB Training Centre was established late in the summer of 2007 in collaboration with Alberta Sustainable Resource Development to provide training resources for the province, and news has been spreading wherever the mountain pine beetle is a potential pest.

National and international attention has been drawn to the Alberta Mountain Pine Beetle Training Centre, as foresters develop skills needed to identify, manage, and prevent infestations. On February 26 - 28 a group of 13 forestry professionals from the Saskatchewan Ministry of Environment will be trained at the Alberta Mountain Pine Beetle Training Centre. The current outbreak has not migrated as far east as Saskatchewan, but the Fire Management and Forest Protection Branch is taking a precautionary step.

GPRC was contracted to deliver this training for Alberta beginning in September of 2007, and has hired an instructor specifically to deliver the courses. The College was a considered an ideal place to hold the training for several reasons including our Training Forest, which is the largest in Canada. It offers a consistent location to hold the classes, it provides a common link between students and forestry contactors and it is in close proximity to where beetle control efforts will be concentrated.

The College has hired full time coordinator Leah Flaherty to deliver the program, funded through a contract with Alberta Sustainable Resource Development. The course involves both in-class theory and field work. Grande Prairie, with its wealth of surrounding boreal forest, including significant mountain pine beetle infestations, provides a natural training ground.

GPRC faculty member Dr. Weixing Tan, who has taught forestry at the College for several years, worked closely with ASRD to establish this training centre. “Working side-by-side with ASRD and forest companies, we are honoured to be part of important contributions towards the control of this least wanted” forest pest,” says Tan. “The mountain pine beetle has not only devastated lodgepole pine forests in BC and Alberta, but has also posed a potential threat to the pines across Canada.”

“GPRC is very pleased to be able to contribute in the education necessary to manage this threat to forestry in our region,” says President Don Gnatiuk. “It is part of our responsibility as the portal for education in our region to work with partners in government and industry to meet training and learning needs as they emerge.”

For More Information Contact:

Dr. Weixing Tan, Forestry Instructor
Grande Prairie Regional College


Leah Flaherty, Coordinator
Alberta Mountain Pine Beetle Training Centre
Grande Prairie Regional College

Monday, February 4, 2008

Computer Gaming - The Future of the Peace?

I've been meaning to write about this very cool topic for a while now and just haven't managed to get around to it... until tonight that is.

If you think that the Peace Country is only about traditional resource based businesses like oil and gas or forestry you'd be part right. They do, of course, play a huge role in our economy as do agriculture and (to a growing extent) retail tourism but what else is there? What could we look to diversify our economy?

Well, the folks a PREDA (Peace Region Economic Development Alliance) have an answer:

Computer Game Industry Development

PREDA has done a lot of work on this so I'll let them explain it in their own words:

"Computer games in North America have gross sales exceeding $10 billion dollars annually. To give this some perspective, this is more income than total Hollywood box office receipts. Some analysts have computed that current annual world sales of computer games are approximately $30 billion and that this figure could grow to $100 billion within the next decade.

Canada has an excellent reputation for producing computer games including major studios such as: Electronic Arts Canada in Burnaby, British Columbia; Bioware in Edmonton; Rock Star games in Toronto, Ontario; and Ubisoft in Montreal, Quebec. Dozens of smaller studios have been established across the country - with major city centres such as Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal being hotbeds of development. Even smaller communities have been able to attract game studios, including HB Games in Lunenberg Nova Scotia, Thunderbird Games on the Queen Charlotte Islands and HermitWorks Entertainment of Grande Prairie.

What this means is that computer game companies the world over are constantly looking to hire both new and experienced employees in order to meet the demands of providing new and exciting games.

The creation of computer games involves a complex mix of talented individuals including: computer programmers who build the game engines and toolsets; concept artists; modelers and animators; designers; as well as musicians and sound effects specialists. Currently, the Grande Prairie Regional College (GPRC) Computer Science and Fine Arts Departments collaborate to graduate students with the interdisciplinary educational requirements and industry skills needed to pursue a career in new media.

GPRC alumni are currently employed throughout North America at large computer game studios including BioWare, Electronic Arts (EA), Backbone, and HermitWorks Entertainment. A group of stakeholders sees an opportunity to grow the computer gaming sector in the Peace Region.

Interested in becoming involved? Contact PREDA Cyber Infrastructure Chair Libero Ficocelli at 780.539.2825 or PREDA Project Officer Nicole McMullan at 780.538.5635."

If this is your kind of thing, or you know someone who might be interested, check out more on the the Launch Effect discussion board here. And even though it's over you might be interested in GameXpo 2007 that happened this winter at the college.

I'd have to sat that in an economy where more and more jobs are going to be based on what you know this is a good step towards the future.


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