Since the 1950s, world renowned corporations have chosen to locate in Alberta’s Industrial Heartland, taking advantage of its many benefits. Growing in size and scale since that time, it was imperative that development in the Heartland was approached proactively, with collaboration among the area’s businesses, municipal governments, and residents. In the early 1990’s, a comprehensive initiative began, bringing together all stakeholders to create a new model of cooperation in the region.
Formally launched in May 1998, Alberta's Industrial Heartland Association (AIHA) united the four municipalities in the area, three levels of government, and the Northeast Capital Industrial Association (representing industry). The municipalities of Fort Saskatchewan, Lamont County, Strathcona County, and Sturgeon County became official partners through a Board of Directors, providing strategic direction to the Association. These partners recognized that joining resources would enhance their effectiveness in attracting business to the region, improve planning, and ensure complementary use of resources. In 2010, the City of Edmonton became the fifth municipal partner in an effort to enhance coordination of industrial development in and around the entire Capital Region. Three Associate Members were recognized in 2011 - Towns of Bruderheim, Gibbons, and Redwater.
AIHA began promoting the Heartland as a global leader in processing, manufacturing, and eco-industrial development. To date, the Heartland region has attracted over $30 billion of investment and developed into Canada’s largest hydrocarbon processing region (see above photo for aerial view of Shell Scotford, the Heartland's most recently completed major project). The geographic area expanded to encompass 582 square kilometres (225 square miles) of industrial land, and businesses grew to employ a workforce of more than 7,000 people. Future development is slated to further increase the region’s bitumen upgrading capacity, pipeline network, and petrochemical processing capabilities.