Rural Enthusiast and Saskatchewan ChangeMAKER
Lindsay Alliban is a rural development specialist and recipient of a Canada 150 Medal for her contributions to southwest Saskatchewan.
At the age of twenty, Lindsay began her career as an economic development officer working for the Village of Hazlet. One of her first projects was ensuring that the regional hub of activity, the community rink, remained viable. This led to development of the first wind powered ice plant in Saskatchewan (possibly in Canada). Over $700,000 was raised from federal and provincial governments as well as local residents to support this innovation and other enhancements to the facility. Facility power expense is now subsidized by the turbine. This precedent led Sask Power to launch wind demonstration projects to power rinks in other rural communities.
In addition to growing sustainable local businesses and supporting a vibrant sport, recreation, and culture sector, Lindsay assumed responsibility for an economic diversification initiative to ensure sustainability of their local kindergarten to grade 12 school. In 2007 she became Coordinator for the new International School Program, recruiting and managing over 150 students from 27 countries since 2007. An added outcome of nurturing these future world leaders, is that of exposing local students to different cultures, preparing them for the multicultural fabric of Saskatchewan beyond the boundaries of their own community. According to local leaders, the international program probably saved the school and it brought a vibrant spirit back to the community.
Today, ten years later, Lindsay is proud to host the Hazlet economic development office in the “big blue house” which also functions as Hazlet’s guest house and thrift shop. This old ranch style house was purchased by the community and renovated as a social enterprise with operational expenses covered by thrift shop and guest house revenue. Lindsay also played a key role(co-owner) in the recent conversion of the vacant church which was converted into an entertainment venue. A new daycare in the community now supports local residents who work regionally and farther afield. Positioning Hazlet as a bedroom community of Swift Current is one of her core strategies.
In 2017, Lindsay’s work in the southwest attracted the attention of elected officials in the Town of Gull Lake and Village of Frontier.
Lindsay added the Town of Gull Lake to her economic development portfolio in early 2018. One of her first initiatives was to ensure the town became one of five pilot communities engaged in the ThriveSask Community Activation Program, spearheaded by the Saskatchewan Economic Development Alliance. (SEDA). A provincial resource team comprised of SEDS, Tourism Saskatchewan, Saskatchewan Parks and Recreation Association, Heritage Saskatchewan and the Ministry of Parks Culture & Sport joined local residents and businesses at their first activation session in April to establish priorities and action plans to move the community forward.
Strategically located on the busy Trans Canada highway between the Alberta border and City of Swift Current, the Town of Gull Lake is now mobilizing to leverage its location as well as its unique heritage, to meet the needs of a young and growing resident base. Business retention and attraction are key priorities for the community. Its first Buy Local Campaign kicked off at the inaugural Gull Lake Solstice Festival on June 21.
A new motel is targeted for construction in winter of 2018 and the recent sale of the landmark 76 Ranch House – the first building in the area and one on which the town was built around – is generating excitement. A local resident engaged with the local economic development committee purchased the Ranch House which is being converted into a boutique coffee shop with planned retail and cultural activities. Led by Lindsay, the Town of Gull Lake has established a committee to set out a vision for downtown beautification – one that will incorporate both the physical and intangible aspects of the community’s heritage.
Lindsay also began working with the Village of Frontier in spring of 2018. Located close to the United States border, Frontier is within easy driving distance to Cypress Hills and the Grasslands National Park. Recognizing the benefits of strategic social media and an accessible online presence, Lindsay is already engaging Frontier residents and ensuring the community can be found online by those seeking to visit and invest.
A long time volunteer with the Saskatchewan Economic Development Alliance, Lindsay has served as a member of the Board of Directors for 8 years. She also remains available to mentor to other young economic development officers in the province.
Lindsay credits community leadership and collaboration within different groups as key to the success of economic development in a rural community. Maintaining ongoing communication with all age groups and identifying champions to work towards a sustainable future is absolutely necessary.
As a passionate rural enthusiast, Lindsay is firmly focused on her vision to retain young adults in rural Saskatchewan. Working together with community leaders and volunteers, Lindsay is intent on building the ‘live rural” value proposition with its welcoming, peaceful quality of life – places where individuals and families can set down roots. Lindsay admits that 90% of people today may choose to live in larger urban centres. She is focused on the 10% that want what rural southwest Saskatchewan has to offer.