Foothills residents will soon be calling their home a county.
MD of Foothills council voted 6-1 on Feb. 7 to apply to the Province to change its name to Foothills County.
“I believe when you say county it actually has something you can grip, like a town or a city,” said Reeve Larry Spilak in the meeting. “It is in our best interest to rebrand our municipality, and this would be the beginning of the rebranding.”
He said one reason would be to bring industrial and commercial growth, which would create a wider tax base for the municipality. Most national or international companies recognize what a county is as opposed to an MD, said Spilak.
The Calgary Region Growth Management Board will be sending out an economic development team on behalf of member municipalities, and Spilak said he wants to see the Foothills recognized for what it is and potentially attract businesses.
“If someone from the U.S. is searching Calgary and area to put a business in and they see MD of Foothills versus Rocky View County, they’re going to look at the county because they understand what a county is but they won’t know what an MD is,” said Spilak.
More than two-thirds of rural municipalities in Alberta are now counties, he said. According to the Province’s website, there are now 64 districts in Alberta – 47 counties and 17 municipal districts.
Spilak said close to 10 have changed to county in the last decade.
“I just want to do better for the MD of Foothills, and I believe this is one way to do it,” he said.
The MD intends to keep costs of rebranding and renaming as low as possible, changing over items like letterhead and business cards on an as-needed basis and replacing signs all at once when it is necessary – which Deputy Reeve Delilah Miller said is about now.
“We do need to do something with regards to our signs, whether we stay with MD or go to County,” Miller said.
An estimate from last year given to the MD to replace all border signs was about $25,000, and it’s a cost the MD would have to bear whether it changed its name or not, she said.
According to CAO Harry Riva-Cambrin, the total cost for Rocky View County to change over from an MD was about $29,000.
“We would not change out our business cards or anything like that until such time as we didn’t have any left,” said Riva-Cambrin. “We’d use our letterhead, we’d use our metallic signs, and as I read in the [Municipal Government] Act that’s perfectly in order.”
Riva-Cambrin said the name change would have no effect on existing policies and agreements.
Coun. R.D. McHugh cast the sole vote against the name change, arguing it won’t achieve the MD’s rebranding goals.
“The idea of rebranding would be to differentiate ourselves from others, but by going to county we’re joining everybody else and we’re actually not branding ourselves as different,” said McHugh.
In addition, he said the term “municipal district” carries a more refined meaning behind it than “county,” which he said brings connotations of “hicks.”
“Municipal district is a higher distinction in my brain than county,” said McHugh. “Let’s all go back to Hazzard County and join the likes of Rosco, I guess that would make us a heck of a lot more sophisticated.”
He said if anybody ever asked what the MD was, it was an opportunity to educate people on what the municipal district is and how it was different than others.
Changing the name is missing the point of rebranding, he said.
“You don’t touch names,” said McHugh. “That’s 56 years of history to establish that.”