As mayor of the thriving, rural community of Whitecourt, Alberta, Maryann Chichak knows how to grow a small-town economy. While many rural communities are shrinking, Whitecourt has been welcoming newcomers, and recently added its 10,000th resident.
Three forestry companies have long been the employer of choice in the area. Having nursed her own company through a recession, Maryann is working hard as mayor to diversify Whitecourt’s economy to ride out the boom-and-bust cycles. She has formed effective partnerships with local industries, including Canada’s oil and natural gas sector.
The Duvernay shale gas field is located just west and a little south of the town. With an estimated 443 trillion cubic feet of gas and 61.7 billion barrels of oil potentially in place, it’s expected to sustain the regional economy for years to come. “Then you look at the economic spinoff oil-and-gas has on the hospitality industry, the hotel industry, the retail industry,” she recently told the Financial Post. “The energy industry generates a lot of economic benefit. It’s a win-win for everybody.”
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