Fort McMurray region's economic growth expected to outpace Edmonton, Calgary and Red Deer

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Fort McMurray region's economic growth expected to outpace Edmonton, Calgary and Red Deer

Fort McMurray region's economic growth expected to outpace Edmonton, Calgary and Red Deer

Even after the devastating Fort McMurray wildfire and an oilsands production shutdown, the Wood Buffalo region which includes the oilsands capital is expected to outpace Edmonton, Calgary and Red Deer in economic growth into 2018.

But it will take until 2021 for the Wood Buffalo Regional Municipality's gross domestic product (GDP) to return to where it was forecast before the Fort McMurray wildfire ravaged the city and region in 2016.

The Conference Board of Canada highlighted these factors in its August outlook for the region. The municipality released the report on Tuesday.

According to the report, in 2017 and 2018, the region will register an average real GDP growth of 10.4 per cent. In comparison, Edmonton and Calgary are both expected to see growth averaging 2.3 per cent, while Red Deer is expected to see two-per-cent growth.

A rebound in oil production and the reconstruction of approximately 2,400 homes and buildings destroyed by the wildfire have boosted the region's economy, the report said.

Amanda Haitas, Wood Buffalo's manager of economic development, said the report is a positive sign for the region.

"It's something that makes us feel we are on track for better days," Haitas said.

$1.4 billion in lost revenues

The report also outlined how the region's economy took a beating after the wildfire. Coupled with the already declining price of oil, the wildfire only worsened the economic situation.

Between the evacuation of residents and their re-entry, oil production in the region dropped by more than one million barrels per day, resulting in a total loss of 47 million barrels through May and June. That amounted to approximately $1.4 billion in lost revenues.

But the downward trend is reversing, said report author Alan Arcand.

"You will see an impact from the billions of dollars that have been invested in the past," said Arcand. "And that's where you are going to see a lot of growth on the production side of the oilsands instead of the investment side."

Follow David Thurton, CBC's Fort McMurray correspondent, on Facebook, Twitter or contact him via email.