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 Agri-food Hub & Trade Centre nears completion

AFH Exterior - July 10

Agri-food Hub & Trade Centre nears completion

Project supports Southern Alberta economy, while maintaining fiscally-responsible budget

Lethbridge, Alta. – As it nears its grand opening, the Agri-food Hub & Trade Centre is being heralded as a much-needed community gathering place that recognizes Southern Alberta’s vast history and supports the region’s continued path towards a bright economic future.

“There is a deep history and values system in Lethbridge and Southern Alberta that this project represents,” says Nathan Neudorf, MLA, Lethbridge East. “The heartbeat of our economy in the south has long been agriculture – farming, ranching and all the supportive industries that go along with it, it’s in our blood. The Agri-food Hub & Trade Centre celebrates those accomplishments and magnifies the opportunities to explore and grow them even further.”

The Agri-food Hub & Trade Centre, operated by Lethbridge & District Exhibition will hold its first events this summer, with an official grand opening ceremony and public open house in August.

“This state-of-the-art facility is so much more than just a building; it is a vision, a blank slate of possibility,” says Tory Campbell, Reeve, Lethbridge County. “The knowledge that will be shared on this campus will serve to inform, educate, and inspire. Now more than ever, people want to know where their food comes from, how it is grown, and how it ends up on their plate. The Agri-food Hub & Trade Centre will be a conduit to connect people to their food.”

Fiscally-responsible construction

Originally budgeted as a $70.6 million project, the completed development will come in just 8.6 per cent over budget, despite the bulk of construction taking place during the COVID-impacted years of 2021 and 2022, which created supply chain disruptions and sky-rocketing costs for steel, lumber, and other construction materials. The 8.6 per cent overage is significantly lower than the average residential construction project in Alberta, which increased in cost by 14.1 per cent in 2022, according to Statistics Canada.

“I’m incredibly proud of the work done by our Lethbridge & District Exhibition team, Ward Bros. Construction, and our project management to ensure this project remained fiscally responsible,” says Mike Warkentin, CEO, Lethbridge & District Exhibition. “We were constantly evaluating the project and the shifting economic landscape. We adapted to find $9.27 million in cost savings, but did it without sacrificing any of the building’s functionality.”

The 268,000 square foot facility has already been an economic driver in the region, with nearly 300,000 hours of trades work going into construction, 100 per cent of which was provided by Alberta contractors.

“To manage a construction project of this size to a cost-overage far lower than that of an average Alberta home is a win for all involved, and should be held up as a shining example of Alberta construction in action,” says Warkentin. “The professionals involved in this project worked together, came up with creative solutions, and are on the verge of completing a project this entire region can be proud of. We can’t wait for Southern Albertans to see all it can offer.”

An economic driver

The Agri-food Hub & Trade Centre is expected to contribute more than $90 million annually to the regional economy, hosting local, provincial, national, and international trade shows and events. It will serve as an economic driver of growth for Alberta’s agriculture, agri-food and tourism sectors.

“This project isn’t just for the agriculture industry, it’s for all Southern Albertans,” says Neudorf. “It will help connect our past to our future so we can continue to learn the lessons we need to and value what we’ve learned along the way. It is exciting to see a dream become reality and to set the wheels in motion for what could be.”

The new facility will double Lethbridge & District Exhibition’s current hosting capacity and create opportunities for the region to host events it previously wasn’t able to.

“The economic spin-offs from the Agri-food Hub & Trade Centre will benefit Southern Albertans for decades to come,” says Campbell. “The team at Lethbridge & District Exhibition should be extremely proud of the work they’ve done to deliver this amazing facility, while being financially prudent during such tumultuous times.”

The Agri-food Hub & Trade Centre is funded by the Government of Alberta, through Alberta’s Recovery Plan; the City of Lethbridge, which will maintain ownership of the land; Lethbridge County; a $3.5 million federal grant from PrairiesCan; and a 30-year loan secured against the future operations of the facility.

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