Economy of Lethbridge

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The economy of Lethbridge is central to the commercial, distribution, financial and industrial sectors of the southern Alberta economy (although Medicine Hat plays a significant role in southeastern Alberta). Lethbridge has a trading area population of 250,000 (including parts of British Columbia and Montana). The city was founded in 1885 as a result of local coal mining and later was buoyed by local farming and ranching. Toward the end of the twentieth century, the local economy started diversifying by focusing more on service-based industries.

Economic development[edit]

In 2004, the municipal government organised Economic Development Lethbridge, a body responsible for the promotion and development of the city's commercial interests. Also in that year, the city joined in a partnership with 24 other local communities to create an economic development alliance called SouthGrow, representing a population of over 140,000.

In 2006, Economic Development Lethbridge partnered with SouthGrow Regional Initiative and Alberta SouthWest Regional Alliance to create the Southern Alberta Alternative Energy Partnership. This partnership is responsible for the development and attraction of alternative energy business, including wind power, solar power and biofuel.

Head offices[edit]

Lethbridge has been the home of several national companies over the years. From its founding in 1935, Canadian Freightways was based in Lethbridge until moving its operations to Calgary in 1948; its call centre remains in Lethbridge. Taco Time Canada was based in the city from 1978–1995 before moving to Calgary. Minute Muffler, which began in 1969, is based out of Lethbridge. International shipping company H & R Transport has been based in the city since 1955. Braman Furniture, which also has locations in Manitoba and Ontario, has been headquartered in Lethbridge since 1991. Lethbridge Iron Works has been in the city since 1898.

Industry sectors[edit]

Traditionally, Lethbridge's economy has been agriculture based; however, as the city has grown in recent years, its economy has become more diversified. As shown below, half of the city's industry—at least in 2001—was in the health, education, retail and hospitality sectors and the top five employers were government based.

According to the 2001 federal census,[1] Lethbridge industry sectors make up the following shares of the economy:

  • Health and education services: 21%
  • Wholesale and retail trade: 17%
  • Leisure, hospitality and food services: 13%
  • Primary and construction: 10%
  • Manufacturing: 10%
  • Professional and business services: 10%
  • Public administration: 5%
  • Transportation and warehousing: 5%
  • Finance and insurance: 3%
  • Other: 6%


Lethbridge is the headquarters for Lethbridge County, and the City of Lethbridge is the largest municipal government south of Calgary. In addition, several provincial government agencies are located in the city.


The local health region, Chinook Health, is based in Lethbridge and oversees the operation of 12 hospitals, 15 community health centres, and 5 continuing care facilities in 14 communities. It also employs more people in Lethbridge than any other single organization, including 3,500 staff and 200 physicians.


Two post-secondary institutions — University of Lethbridge and Lethbridge College — are located here and provide a combined workforce of roughly 3,000 persons. In addition, the Kainai-based Red Crow Community College also has a campus in the city.

Retail and hospitality[edit]

Lethbridge's regional prominence as a service provider has resulted in the establishment of the city as a retail and hospitality centre. Three shopping malls provide 175 retail spaces. Combined with three power centres, they accommodate nearly 30 major national and international retailers.[2] In addition, 16 major hotel/motel facilities exist in Lethbridge and provide a total of over 1,346 rooms, which increase by nearly 1,000 during the summer when the university and college open their dorms for visitor occupancy. The city also has 145 restaurants, 67 fast food outlets, and 63 bars and lounges.[3]


Although the manufacturing sector makes up only 10% of the city's total economy, it accounts for more than $1.2 billion in sales annually and has a total payroll of over $185 million for roughly 4,800 employees. The more than 100 firms occupy over 380,902 m² (4.1 million square feet) of floor and office space in six industrial and business parks. Areas of manufacturing include the following:[4]

  • Agricultural equipment
  • Animal feeds
  • Concrete products
  • Construction materials
  • Fabricated metal
  • Foods and beverages
  • Furniture
  • Machining
  • Manufactured housing
  • Non-metallic mineral products
  • Plastics
  • Heating and ventilation products
  • Transportation equipment

Largest employers in Lethbridge[edit]

In 2017, the largest employers in Lethbridge were as follows:[5]

Employer Business Activity Number of Staff
Alberta Health Services Health Care & Social Assistance 3,368
University of Lethbridge Educational Services 2,431
Lethbridge School District Number 51 Educational Services 1,500
City of Lethbridge Public Administration 1,462
Lethbridge College Educational Services 955
Alberta Government Public Administration 900
Holy Spirit Catholic Schools Division #4 Educational Services 779
Sunrise Poultry Food Manufacturing 625
Covenant Health Health Care & Social Assistance 603
Palliser Regional Schools Educational Services 519
Lethbridge Research Centre Professional, Scientific & Technical Services 443
Maple Leaf Foods Inc. - Lethbridge Pork Food Manufacturing 425
PepsiCo Foods Canada Food Manufacturing 400
McDonalds Accommodation & Food Services 400
Lethbridge Family Services Health Care & Social Assistance 375
Green Acres Foundation Health Care & Social Assistance 341
Sobeys Retail 338
Triple M Housing Manufacturing 325
Costco Retail 285
Save-On Foods Retail 267
Charlton & Hill Manufacturing 180
Kawneer Manufacturing 257
CP Rail Transportation & Warehousing 250
Real Canadian Superstore Retail 225
Southern Alberta Community Living Association Health Care & Social Assistance 222
McCains Food Manufacturing 217
Shoppers Drug Mart Retail 212
Davis Auto Group Retail 211
Canadian Tire Retail 189
Cavendish Farms Food Manufacturing 185
Western Tractor Retail 163
Richardson Oilseed Food Manufacturing 160
Casino Lethbridge Arts, Entertainment & Recreation 155
ATB Financial Finance & Insurance 153
H&R Transport Transportation & Warehousing 143
Meridian Manufacturing Manufacturing 142
Pratt & Whitney Manufacturing 141
SRI Homes Manufacturing 139
Southland Trailer Corp Manufacturing 205
Lethbridge Iron Works Manufacturing 130
Haul-All Equipment Manufacturing 130
Home Depot Retail 125
Browns Social House Accommodation & Food Services 124
MNP Professional, Scientific & Technical Services 124
RBC Finance & Insurance 120
KB Heating & Air Conditioning Construction 109
Varsteel Manufacturing 105
Lethbridge County Public Administration 104
Firestore Restaurant & Bar Accommodation & Food Services 104

Regional services[edit]

Lethbridge serves as a hub for commercial activity in the region, which includes several satellite communities. It provides many services and amenities for the region. Much of the region's transport needs are provided by or concentrated in or near the city including Greyhound service, convergence of four provincial highways, rail service and an airport. Other than the Red Crow Community College, which has a campus in Lethbridge, the only post-secondary education south of Calgary and west of Medicine Hat is provided by Lethbridge and consists of the University of Lethbridge and Lethbridge College.

The city provides direct services to surrounding communities. In 2004, the police services of Lethbridge and Coaldale combined to form the Lethbridge Regional Police Service, since renamed to the Lethbridge Police Service.[6] The city provides municipal water to the nearby towns of Coaldale and Coalhurst and the hamlets of Diamond City, Iron Springs, Shaughnessy and Turin.[7] The city's Public Safety Communications Centre provides fire and ambulance dispatching services for the Lethbridge County and police dispatch for the Lethbridge Police Service.[8]

Lethbridge provides jobs for up to 80,000 people who commute to the city from a radius of 100 km.[9] It provides numerous processing facilities for nearby agricultural producers and a dozen trucking firms for commercial shipping needs.[10]


  1. ^ Lethbridge Community Profile, Statistics Canada. 2002. 2001 Community Profiles. Released 27 June 2002. Last modified: 2005-11-30. Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 93F0053XIE
  2. ^ Major Lethbridge Retailers Archived 2007-09-27 at the Wayback Machine, Economic Development Lethbridge. Accessed 15 December 2006.
  3. ^ Tourism and Hospitality Information Archived 2007-09-27 at the Wayback Machine, Economic Development Lethbridge. Accessed 15 December 2006.
  4. ^ Lethbridge Manufacturing Directory, 2005–2006 Archived 2007-09-27 at the Wayback Machine, Economic Development Lethbridge
  5. ^
  6. ^ Police Commission Archived January 29, 2007, at the Wayback Machine, Lethbridge Regional Police Service. Accessed 24 December 2006.
  7. ^ "Pipeline Project Flows Along". Sunny South News. 2002-03-14.
  8. ^ "Council approves new dispatching agreement". Lethbridge Herald. 2007-08-22. pp. A5.
  9. ^ Business Investment Profile 2005/2006 Archived 2007-06-21 at the Wayback Machine, Economic Development Lethbridge. 2005. Accessed 7 November 2006.
  10. ^ Community Profile Archived 2007-01-10 at the Wayback Machine, Lethbridge Chamber of Commerce. Accessed 24 December 2006.

External links[edit]