Province invests $10M in development of ag centre at Brandon college

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BRANDON — Seeking to strengthen Manitoba’s agricultural industry, the province is investing $10 million in the development of Assiniboine Community College’s Prairie Innovation Centre for Sustainable Agriculture.

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BRANDON — Seeking to strengthen Manitoba’s agricultural industry, the province is investing $10 million in the development of Assiniboine Community College’s Prairie Innovation Centre for Sustainable Agriculture.

Delivering the news Tuesday at a Manitoba Ag Days event, Premier Heather Stefanson called farmers the “backbone of the province,” and said her Tory government is committed to growing its economy through partnerships with post-secondary institutions and industry leaders.

“We know there is a real need in our agriculture sector, where projections show one in five jobs could go unfulfilled by 2029,” she said. “Right here in Brandon, Assiniboine Community College is offering a solution.”

Premier Heather Stefanson called farmers the backbone of the province on Tuesday at a Manitoba Ag Days event in Brandon. (Tim Smith / The Brandon Sun)

ACC has campaigned for the Prairie Innovation Centre since 2019, and has raised more than $16.5 million in private industry support.

The province’s $10-million contribution will support the initial planning phases of the centre, including exploration of facilities and land development. Assessment of the proposed educational programs and associated infrastructure is slated to begin this year.

The facility will be “huge” for the future of Manitoba and agriculture alike, Stefanson said.

According to ACC president Mark Frison, the contribution is a significant step forward to support new programs for labour market development, applied research and industry engagement in the agriculture, environment and processing sectors.

“It’s great to see premier Stefanson and the Manitoba government respond in such a significant way… to assist the college in moving this project forward to the next stage of development,” he said.

Earlier Tuesday, the province added a further $600,000 to the expansion of YMCA Brandon’s downtown early learning centre.

The overall expansion project will double the centre’s child-care spaces to 96 from 48, and includes 12 infant and 36 preschool spaces, Stefanson said.

The funding announcement brings the province’s total contribution to the project to $1.2 million ($600,000 was announced in July).

The centre has also received funding through a joint federal-provincial agreement in 2021, and a $300,000 contribution through the Building Sustainable Communities program in May.

As of July, the total cost of the YMCA expansion project was projected to be $8 million, with about $3 million needed to build the upper level of the expansion for the child care portion.

“It specifically is going to reduce the debt that the Y is going to incur for the project, which is much appreciated. Mostly, it’s blended together as part of the entire project,” YMCA Brandon president and chief executive officer Lon Cullen said at the announcement.

Construction is on schedule for completion in fall.

“(Opening) has to be a phased operation… So, it’ll be an administration area that we’re developing. Child care will open shortly thereafter, and then followed up with the upstairs,” Cullen said.

There are 475 children on the YMCA’s wait list for care spaces, he added. With the additional 48 spaces as part of the expansion, the Y’s child care capacity in Brandon will be more than 500.

— Brandon Sun

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