To the community's displeasure, the province announced yesterday that the Agassiz Youth Centre (AYC) here in Portage la Prairie would be closing this coming summer on July 22.

Mayor Irvine Ferris talks about how significant this is for the community.

"Agassiz has been a staple employer in our community for over 100 years, and this closure will have a significant economic and social impact throughout our community and, indeed, our region. There are over 100 jobs at Agassiz, and our thoughts are with those staff and their families and what they're going through today. Obviously it is a shock to them and to the community. "

Ferris notes that he has no idea what will come of the youth centre, saying, "The province would have to comment on that."

Following the interview with Ferris, Justice Minister Kelvin Goertzen held a press conference where he revealed that the youth centre would be turned into Portage's new hospital.

The mayor says that Portage has worked extremely hard to attract industry and development over the last couple of years, making this news harder to stomach.

"We've seen over a billion dollars in private investment over the last several years, only to have two of our oldest provincial employers in Portage pull up stakes and leave (the Manitoba Developmental Centre last year & Agassiz Youth Centre this year.) It just feels like we've worked incredibly hard to take one step forward today and the province has put us back two steps."

Ferris adds that these lost government jobs were a backstop of Portage's economy.

"This is the second economic blow to our community delivered by the province in just over a year. The MDC (Manitoba Developmental Centre) closure was announced last year, costing our community 400 jobs. Now we will see the closure of AYC with over another hundred jobs for a city of just 13,000. This has a profound impact."