As mentioned above, the ELA pilot project is just one part of our economic development strategy. There is considerable research showing that when governments invest in innovation and projects like this, there is on average a 20+ percent return on investment. That return can be realized in many ways (jobs, earned media coverage, learnings/knowledge, etc.).
We also know that during the ‘smaller,’ shorter and less ‘ground-breaking’ deployments of ELA, there were thousands of riders and public interest. With our pilot project in Beaumont being over a six-month duration, we anticipate visitors to Beaumont to experience this new technology, and that means experiencing our community and visiting the Beaumont businesses.
There are also early plans for a conference later this year in the region that will bring national and international players in the autonomous transportation sector to the Edmonton region. Beaumont’s project is expected to be a key feature and highlight of such a conference. These large companies, leaders in the industry and interested investors will learn about Beaumont, and we are ready to work with them.
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ELA is just one initiative of a larger economic development program.
The 2018 Economic Development Framework that was delivered as part of the Our Centre-Ville Project outlined key objectives to help expand and attract investment in Beaumont as well as increase overall presence in the region and abroad. A key strategic objective from this report highlighted an opportunity for Beaumont to explore emerging sectors such as advanced technologies and commercialization testing as opportunities for investment attraction.
Thousands of residents leave Beaumont every day to work elsewhere in the region. We want to attract and build an industry here to create job opportunities right here within our community. This will not only diversify our tax base, making it more sustainable in the long-term, but it will also further enhance our quality of life such as less commuting.
We know that knowledge-based industries are a great fit for Beaumont as we develop our newly annexed land for business parks and industry. Petrochemical and heavy industry already exist in the region, and they are not the best fit for our municipality. With Beaumont’s strategic location near the airport, our young demographic as a community, our high quality of life and sense of community, innovative industries are a fit. The ‘digital economy’ alone in Alberta now is larger than forestry and even agriculture.
The ELA Autonomous Shuttle Pilot Project is not the only project we are doing from an economic development perspective. With our 500+ home-based businesses in our community, a need has been identified for space where these businesses and others can evolve and grow. We will be opening a collaborative business innovation centre in the coming months which will be a co-work/incubator type operation where these entrepreneurs can work out of, access services to help their business grow and prosper. These types of opportunities and locations have not existed in Beaumont before.
Between the ELA pilot project, our growing presence in the region, the broader marketing and investment attraction initiatives of Edmonton Global, more investors from abroad are going to be looking into Beaumont wanting more facts, statistics and information on our community. We have recently launched www.investinbeaumont.ca as a portal to provide much of this information.
This pilot project is not about directly creating jobs. It is about Beaumont taking a lead role in demonstrating to industry and investors that we support the growth of the emerging technology sector and open to being part of advancements such as this. By being a municipal leader in the technology sector, we are showing that we are open for business and these types of technologies and their related industries are areas we are wanting to attract.