Lethbridge is a city in the province of Alberta, Canada, and the largest city in southern Alberta. It is Alberta's fourth-largest city by population after Calgary, Edmonton and Red Deer, and the third-largest by area after Calgary and Edmonton. The nearby Canadian Rockies contribute to the city's cool summers, mild winters, and windy climate. Lethbridge lies southeast of Calgary on the Oldman River.
Lethbridge is the commercial, financial, transportation and industrial centre of southern Alberta. The city's economy developed from drift mining for coal in the late 19th century and agriculture in the early 20th century. Half of the workforce is employed in the health, education, retail and hospitality sectors, and the top five employers are government-based. The only university in Alberta south of Calgary is in Lethbridge, and two of the three colleges in southern Alberta have campuses in the city. Cultural venues in the city include performing art theatres, museums and sports centres.
Galt Museum & Archives
Sir Alexander Galt (English-Canadian politician, and a father of Canadian Confederation) and his son Elliott Torrance Galt co-founded the Town of Lethbridge, Alberta in 1883, when he established a mine on the banks of the Oldman River in the southwest portion of the District of Alberta, Northwest Territories. The Canadian Post Office refused to accept the name Lethbridge for the community until 1885 because there was another town with the same name in the Dominion of Canada. Sir Alexander Galt laid out the street plan of Lethbridge's present location in 1885 after his settlement was moved to the prairie level from the river valley. Canada's Governor General, the Marquis of Landsdowne, demonstrated the Dominion government's support of the Galt enterprises, by opening the Galts' railway in September 1885 in Lethbridge.
Galt's company, the North Western Coal and Navigation Company went through a variety of name changes as it moved into railways, and irrigation enterprises. A public park and a museum (formerly a hospital) in Lethbridge are named after him.
Lethbridge is southern Alberta's commercial, distribution, financial and industrial centre (although Medicine Hat plays a similar role in southeastern Alberta). It has a trading area population of 275,000, including parts of British Columbia and Montana, and provides jobs for up to 80,000 people who commute to the city from a radius of 100 kilometres (62 mi).
Lethbridge's economy has traditionally been agriculture-based; however, it has diversified in recent years. Half of the workforce is employed in the health, education, retail and hospitality sectors, and the top five employers are government-based. Several national companies are based in Lethbridge. From its founding in 1935, Canadian Freightways based its head office there until moving operations to Calgary in 1948, though 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 in Lethbridge. International shipping company H & R Transport has been based in the city since 1955. Braman Furniture, which has locations in Manitoba and Ontario, was headquartered in Lethbridge from 1991–2008.
Lethbridge serves as a hub for commercial activity in the region by providing services and amenities. Many transportation services, including Greyhound buses, four provincial highways, rail service and an airport, are concentrated in or near the city. In 2004, the police services of Lethbridge and Coaldale combined to form the Lethbridge Regional Police Service. Lethbridge provides municipal water to Coaldale, Coalhurst, Diamond City, Iron Springs, Monarch, Shaughnessy and Turin.
In 2002, the municipal government organized Economic Development Lethbridge, a body responsible for promoting and developing the city's commercial interests. Two years later, 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 promotes business related to alternative energy, including wind power, solar power and biofuel, in the region. Economic Development Lethbridge won first place at the Economic Developers Association of Canada 2007 Marketing Canada Awards for its "County of Lethbridge Business Investment Profile 2007–2008". In 2007, Site Selection magazine ranked Economic Development Lethbridge as fourth among Canadian economic development groups for volume of capital investment and job creation.