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News Release

May 25, 2007

Development Fund Sponsors Five New Projects

New funding to help a number of rural communities and regions

Tofield – Rural Alberta’s Development Fund (RADF) announced funding today of $4.55 million to sponsor five rural Alberta projects. The innovative projects will improve learning resources and connectivity in many rural communities and areas of the province.

The Integrated Community Clerkship project will see medical students spending at least eight months learning about medical practice in Sundre, Hinton, Edson, St. Paul, Sylvan Lake or Drumheller from doctors already living and working there. Studies show longer exposure time in a rural setting leads to more students choosing to work in rural communities after graduation.

Tomorrow’s Promise Today will create virtual learning and business centres in Three Hills and Hanna. The regional centres will give residents in east-central Alberta better access to and expanded value from Alberta’s SuperNet.

A project in Killam will attract key agri-businesses into the region while RADF’s sponsorship allows the Sunchild E-Learning Centre in Rocky Mountain House to expand skills training for Aboriginal learners. The fifth project involves co-sponsoring the launch of a 211 phone service for southwest Alberta.

“All these initiatives will benefit rural Alberta. Multiple partners, community collaboration and the likelihood of long-term, positive impacts made these obvious choices for our Board to support,” said Bob Clark, RADF co-chair. “These are the types of projects we are looking for,” added Co-chair Fred Estlin.

Premier Ed Stelmach said the Fund is intended to help communities and regions diversify and create services that have far-reaching benefits. “These first five projects will help build a stronger Alberta by encouraging rural development and building on community resources,” Stelmach said.

Rural Alberta’s Development Fund is a not-for-profit company that inspires innovation, collaboration and growth across rural Alberta. It is funded by the Government of Alberta and is a key implementation initiative of Alberta’s Rural Development Strategy. More information is available at

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Direct media enquiries to:
Godfrey Huybregts
Director of Communications, Rural Alberta’s Development Fund
1-877-940-7233 Cell: 780-953-0525



Summary of Approved Projects

May 25, 2007

Fund contribution is $2.4 million

This project involves third year Alberta medical students spending at least eight months learning about medical practice in rural communities from doctors already living and working there. Currently, students spend one month in rural communities as part of their medical education. Studies in other jurisdictions with similar programs show that longer exposure time in a rural setting leads to more students choosing to work
there after graduation.

Project partners include Rural Physician Action Plan, Regional Health Authorities, participating rural communities and participating rural doctors, University of Calgary’s Faculty of Medicine and University of Alberta’s Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry. To date, participating communities and physicians include: Sundre – Dr. Hal Irvine, Hinton – Dr. Brad Armstrong, Edson – Dr. Sundren Govender, St. Paul – Dr. Harvey Woytiuk, Sylvan Lake – Dr. Brad Bahler, Drumheller – Dr. Lawrence Olfert.

The first students are expected to be in rural communities in the fall of 2007. Expected results include:

  • Increased number of Alberta trained medical graduates who practice in Alberta rural communities.
  • More retention of existing rural physicians.
  • More graduates choose family medicine or generalist specialties.
  • Enhanced access in rural Alberta to medical services.
  • Improved quality of life in rural communities.

Contact: Dr. Jill Konkin, Associate Dean, Rural & Regional Health, Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry, University of Alberta.
T: 780-492-9341

Dr. Doug Myhre, Associate Dean, Rural and Regional Affairs, Faculty of Medicine, University of Calgary.
T: 403-393-0928

Fund contribution is $1.5 million

Tomorrow’s Promise Today will create Virtual Learning and Business Centres in the Three Hills Municipal Library and the Hanna Learning Centre. A joint venture of the Town of Three Hills, the Hanna Learning Centre and the Three Hills Library Board, these centres will give residents in east-central Alberta better access to and expanded value from Alberta’s SuperNet.

A number of new programs will be implemented and evaluated during the next three years including a business incubator, web portal and community e-index, videoconferencing, on-line learning using a multicollege model, a P3 partnership providing wireless Internet and other services to small towns and villages, and innovative new models for rural library operations and multi-organizational cooperation.

Expected results include:

  • Leading edge information technology that removes barriers and expands access to curriculum, apprenticeship/trades training and post-secondary education in rural communities.
  • Better access to learning opportunities and more skilled workers.
  • Increased local capacity to meet the region’s needs.
  • New connectivity applications for rural Alberta that may be adapted and applied in other parts of the province.

Contact: Kevin Edwards, Mayor, Town of Three Hills.
T: 403-443-5822

Fund contribution is $234,000

This project will attract key agri-businesses into the region. Potential value-added businesses will be identified and screened, with the most likely prospects approached and enticed through joint planning to locate in the area. There are already a number of realistic targets including ethanol or biodiesel processing facilities, a commercial food/food supplement greenhouse, a bio-mass refinery and flaxseed production

Project partners include Killam and District Business Development Association, the Town of Killam, Killam Chamber of Commerce, Battle River Agri-Ventures Cooperative, Pure Produce Greenhouses Alberta and Lakeland College.

Expected results include:

  • Enhanced agricultural base generating increased crop demand and revenue.
  • Increased local economic activity and employment.
  • Secondary value-added services for local residents.
  • Local ownership and return on investment for regional groups.

Contact: Bill Gibb, President, Killam & District Business Development Association
T: 780-385-2398

Fund contribution is $220,000

This investment by Rural Alberta’s Development Fund will allow the Sunchild E-Learning Centre in Rocky Mountain House to expand skills training for Aboriginal learners. This will enable their students to more easily find and keep suitable employment. Sunchild E-Learning will also be able to develop new on-line programming that is in demand but not available elsewhere in Alberta.

Business supporters of Sunchild E-Learning include Conoco Phillips, Encana, Nexen, Northwest Tel, Penn West Energy, Shell, Suncor, Syncrude and Trans Canada Pipelines.

Expected results include:

  • Learners access the specialized courses they want, regardless of where they live in Alberta.
  • Course content and delivery is adapted to Aboriginal cultural and learning needs.
  • The courses and students meet industry’s needs.

Contact: Martin Sacher, CEO, Sunchild E-Learning.
T: (403) 872-0587

Fund contribution is $200,000

This project will result in a free phone service that gives callers in southwest Alberta referral information on community, social, health and government services in their local area. The Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) will manage the 211 phone line when it goes live in October 2008. CMHA already successfully operates a community links telephone service.

Other partners include the City of Lethbridge, Chinook Health, the United Way of Lethbridge, and Family and Community Support Services of Lethbridge and Pincher Creek.

Expected results include:

  • Several efficiencies in service including rapid response, early intervention, redirected calls from 911 and reduced call centre duplication and databases amongst non-profit organizations.
  • Value-added community asset that helps individual, families and communities quickly identify and access the resources they need.
  • More effective link and resource tool for service providers.
  • Identification of local service gaps, duplications and rural residents’ needs through call analysis.

Contact: Deborah Chenery, Executive Director, Canadian Mental Health Association, Alberta South Region.
T: (403) 329-4775