Sangudo, Alberta used to have many things in common with other rural towns: retiring shop owners, boarded-up shops, youth exodus, and resignation to its fate. Things are turning around in Sangudo, though. What are the keys to its revitalization?
For one, in response to the threatened closure of its elementary school, Sangudo's population rallied. It demonstrated a will to transgress its "comfort zone" for the sake of a better future. Citizens started to think hard about the community they wanted to become: a safe, vibrant, comfortable, and desirable place to live, to raise a family, work, and play. A few people began to organize events at which residents could have fun together while improving the local way of life. These leaders were established volunteers who could be trusted with authority, and who trusted others with authority, too.
Another key has been the structure these leaders created to retain local businesses. The Sangudo Opportunity Development Co-operative (SODC) does not own businesses. It receives investment dollars and proposals, and then "pitches" them out as venture opportunities. Then it looks for exceptional people to catch these opportunities and run with them. Sangudo Custom Meat Packers owes its rejuvenation to the SODC, which bought the premises and leased them to two young entrepreneurs.
For Sangudo's future success, access to more local capital may be critical. For that, policy reform is necessary regarding the investment of self-directed RRSP funds. Another possible means is the establishment of Community Economic Development Investment Funds, after the example of Nova Scotia.