Edmonton benefits from seconded Oilers employees during the lockout

oilersThe players and the owners get the spotlight whenever the NHL lockout is discussed, but the lack of hockey affects many more people than that. At many teams, the employees that run the organization have been laid off or have had to take pay cuts due to the lack of revenue coming in. But for many of the Oilers staff, secondment to other organizations throughout the city has been a welcome alternative.

“Our biggest and most valuable asset is the people we have recruited and trained,” Oilers President & COO Patrick LaForge told me. “The worst thing you can do is lay people off.” He knows it is not only difficult for the employees, who would have to go out and find new jobs and deal with everything that goes along with that, but also for the Oilers who will still need talented people once the lockout ends.

The Oilers have done two key things to retain staff during the lockout. The first is that the senior executives all took a sizable pay cut, and the difference is used to ensure that all employees who make less than a certain amount of money per year still earn 100% of their salaries. That leaves the folks in the middle, and that’s where the secondment idea comes in. During the last lockout in 2004, a few Oilers employees found temporary homes at other organizations. One of the employees had a connection with the company that suggested the secondment, and the Oilers decided to give it a shot. “This time, everyone was prepared,” Patrick said.

The Oilers currently have 22 employees seconded to other organizations in Edmonton (that’s about 30% of the folks in the middle). Pennock Acheson Nielsen Devaney took six accountants on board, and other employees have gone to Body by Bennett, the Winspear Centre (including Tony Bao, who the Journal and Sun both wrote about), Williams Engineering, West Edmonton Mall, and a number of other local companies and non-profits. The employees stay on the Oilers payroll, earn their full salaries, and retain all of their benefits, and the Oilers simply invoice the companies for part of the employee’s salary. Most employees have two week notice periods with their temporary employers, so if the lockout were to end the Oilers could be back up and running at full capacity in short order.

Regardless of what happens with the lockout, the employees will likely be back with the Oilers full-time in February as the organization ramps up to sell season tickets for the 2013-2014 campaign. But that may not be the end of the secondments; Patrick indicated that the Oilers may explore the idea for the summer too.

There’s a risk that the Oilers will lose some of these people, but it doesn’t seem likely. “It’s about good commerce in the city,” Patrick told me. It certainly does seem like a win-win-win. The employees get to keep their jobs and paychecks, and they’ll be exposed to new ideas and approaches along the way. The employers get to take advantage of some talented individuals, which is a big deal in Edmonton’s tight labour market (it took just ten days to place the 22 individuals). And the Oilers get to retain their employees and will likely experience a jolt of energy and fresh ideas when they all return.

Actually, they’re probably experiencing that already. Every two weeks the team gets together to swap stories and to share the things they have learned. “Having a culture where everyone is learning is important”, Patrick said. While I’m sure the Oilers would rather be in the middle of a season right now, the opportunity for employees to learn new things from other local organizations probably isn’t such a bad thing.

Could this happen in other cities? Sure, but it’s no surprise that it’s happening here. As Todd wrote, Edmonton is “an unusually open city: open to ideas and open to change.” There’s a spirit of collaboration that makes partnerships like the ones the Oilers have forged possible.

Brad Ferguson is ‘all in’ as EEDC’s new President & CEO

One month into his new role as President & CEO of Edmonton Economic Development Corporation (EEDC), Brad Ferguson is still trying to get a handle on an organization that many would say is in need of change. Starting a new job is tough enough, but Brad’s new position comes with its own unique mix of history, politics, and public scrutiny. Despite that, Brad insists he is ready to tackle the challenges and bring about significant, positive changes. “I have never been so on for something in my life, since maybe when I was starting my own company,” he told me as our coffee interview got underway last week. “I’m fired up, I really am!”

Brad Ferguson

Though he has lived in a number of different places, Edmonton has always been Brad’s home. He earned a B.A. in Economics and B.Comm in Finance from the University of Alberta. A job at Proctor & Gamble took him away from the city in the mid-nineties, but he soon returned to start a family and “really setup shop.” After P&G, Brad spent time at KPMG and TkMC (Sierra Systems) before starting his own management consultancy Strategy Summit Ltd. in 2002. He has made a career out of advising organizations on how to become more competitive to facilitate growth.

He was not thinking about the EEDC job at first, but a series of conversations in recent months changed Brad’s mind. A number of individuals encouraged him to throw his hat into the ring, so he did. After going through the headhunting and formal interview process, Brad started to feel as though he might be selected. “I became downright competitive about it!” He had come to realize that the opportunity was too important to pass up, and he wanted the job.

At just 43 years of age, Brad will bring a perspective to EEDC that the organization has not had in fifteen years. His two most recent predecessors, Ron Gilbertson and Allan Scott, were both 55 when they took the job. Before them, Jim Edwards was 61 when he took over from Rick LeLacheur, the organization’s first president and CEO who was about six months older when he started than Brad is today. EEDC is often criticized as an “old boys club”, so the board’s decision to move ahead with Brad as the new leader reflects a willingness to change.

Established in 1993, EEDC is wholly owned by the City of Edmonton. The organization’s mandate includes the promotion of economic development and tourism, as well as the management and development of the Shaw Conference Centre and Edmonton Research Park. Or as Brad put it, the organization is made up of four very different business units. “We have a major facility and caterer, real estate, tourism, and economic development.” With 130 full-time employees, 650 part-time employees, and a $36 million annual budget, EEDC is a major force in our city yet many Edmontonians wonder what the organization does. Brad wants to change that.

“It’s about being externally focused,” he said. “It’s about demonstrating value to the community.” He acknowledges that structural changes are necessary, not only to change EEDC’s image, but to enable it to deliver on its mandate. “The structure has to mesh with strategy and be aligned to organizational outcomes.” He admits to feeling some public pressure to make changes as well.

That process will take time, but it starts this fall when Brad will take a series of directional statements to the board in an effort to get authorization to further explore the options. He hopes to present a set of recommendations by the end of the year. “I have three phases,” he explained. “Focusing the organization, building leadership capacity, and bringing about a cultural shift.” He’s not sure exactly what that change will look like, but he knows where he wants the organization to end up. “Our structure needs to build confidence and clarity in the marketplace.”

One of the first people Brad called after starting work was Richard Andersen, President and CEO at Northlands. “I want to bring resolution and clarity to the question of Shaw versus Expo,” Brad told me. Competition between the Shaw Conference Centre and Edmonton Expo Centre can sometimes be unhealthy, as each focuses on winning the client instead of ensuring the client comes to Edmonton and has the best experience possible. Like EEDC, Northlands has also struggled in recent years to defend its existence, a problem that only got worse when they were left out of discussions on the downtown arena. Under Andersen’s leadership however, there are signs that things are beginning to change for the better, and Brad certainly holds his counterpart in high esteem. “Richard is an incredible operator and leader in this community.”

The open approach to collaboration will be important as Brad charts a new course for EEDC. “No one organization is responsible for economic development,” he told me. “It’s a system, and it’s important to be supportive of other organizations.” While the amalgamation of the various economic entities in the nineties helped to bring clarity and efficiency to Edmonton’s economic development efforts, perhaps the time has come to reassess that structure. Perhaps EEDC doesn’t need to be in four different businesses.

Even if a breakup is not in the cards for EEDC, there is certainly room for greater coordination with other organizations. Just days after Edmonton Tourism’s joint initiative with Travel Alberta to bring former Bachelorette star Ashley Hebert and her fiance J.P. to Edmonton made headlines, Brad admitted that he learned a lot from the experience. “I have learned who they are,” he quipped. Then, becoming more serious, “I have made it known internally that I want to understand the ROI on this.” Brad was quick to support his staff however, explaining that experimentation and creativity are needed and should be cultivated. As for the collaboration with Travel Alberta, Brad was happy the two organizations were able to work together on a project. Still, he recognizes there is work to do. “There should be a joint context, a joint set of priorities.”

One of Brad’s earliest memories of Edmonton was a walk through the river valley when he was about eight years old. “I remember the green and gold of the leaves,” he recalled. “It felt like a new phase for me.” That same spot, near the Royal Glenora, had an impact on him later too when a conversation about the negative economic situation in Edmonton weighed heavily. In the latest phase of his career, Brad finds himself in a much healthier city, faced with the opportunity to have a major impact.

There are many Edmontonians that have shaped the leader Brad is today, and many that he admires greatly, but two stand out. “Sandy Mactaggart recognized there was opportunity here,” Brad said. “He was a city builder and is still a great philanthropist.” The other is Rod Fraser, perhaps best known as the former President of the University of Alberta. “He is one of the great communicators,” Brad said. “He talked about the university being indisputably recognized internationally as one of a handful of the best organizations.”

EEDC has been vocal about its vision to make Edmonton one of the world’s top five mid-sized cities by 2030, but Brad is not sold on that. “Visions are never achievable,” he told me. “They have to be long-lasting.” The implication is that being a top five mid-sized city is completely reasonable and achievable. “Let’s declare ourselves there, up the bar, and figure out what’s next.” He would rather see us really stretch. After all, as the saying goes, no one gives you power, you just take it.

So what would a stronger vision sound like? “The vision should be to consistently outperform every economic jurisdiction in North America for the next twenty years.” An audacious and yet very measurable statement. “That means when the price of oil fluctuates, we still need to outperform, so that’s resiliency.” The focus on North America rather than simply the world is important, because Brad says the “continental approach is where we want to perform.”

Whenever Edmonton’s aspirations are discussed, two words seem to get thrown around more than any other: world class. “I don’t subscribe to those words a lot,” Brad declared. When pushed for a definition, he said the first thing is we need to be proud of whatever we’re calling world class. And secondly, “it has to be relevant and respected by people outside of our borders.” He did have praise for the downtown arena, perhaps the project most often associated with the term. “I think the arena is a bold, dynamic project, that has the ability to spark the creativity and interest of whole lot of other developers,” he said. “I want to compliment the City for having the courage to really entertain this and to be involved as a partner.”

One word that Brad has been using very consistently and deliberately since taking over as CEO is “complacency.” To him, it perfectly captures one of Edmonton’s biggest challenges. “It’s our number one enemy,” he said. “Right now the economy feels strong, but there are some dark clouds looming.” It’s clear that Brad has thought a lot about the subject, and has strong feelings about how to avoid becoming complacent. “We need to change to a culture of competitiveness,” he told me. “We need to have a hunger to compete.” Despite his cautions about complacency, Brad does feel that Edmonton is more resilient and diversified today than ever before. And he notes that significant opportunities lay ahead for the city. “A number of the things Edmonton has – education, food, water – are things the world wants,” Brad said.

Ensuring we can articulate Edmonton’s story to the world is going to be an important piece in making the most of those opportunities. “There’s a real need to tell our city’s story better,” Brad declared. “I compliment the mayor for his leadership on this.” Noting that everyone has an opinion on the topic, he doesn’t think any one group can fully articulate what Edmonton’s story is. “I think a common language will emerge,” he said. “Something to do with the opportunity to contribute.” Whatever the story is, Brad hopes it has an impact on the way Edmontonians feel about Edmonton. “We have to build a little more pride in how we talk about our city,” he said.

Capital Ideas Edmonton Mixer

While Brad will absolutely need to lead the way as a retooled EEDC works to make Edmonton the economic jurisdiction to beat, he recognizes that he won’t be alone in that quest. “There are so many great people that want to help build this city,” he said. “Part of my job is to help them make something happen.” He stresses that his door is open, and that he’ll be both accessible and proactive. “Everyone can expect my call!”

Despite the economic turmoil taking place around the globe, Edmonton’s economy has remained strong and healthy growth is forecasted for the years ahead. Of course EEDC has a role to play in that, but it’s an indirect one that requires clear direction and strong collaboration. Ensuring EEDC has the right people, strategies, and relationships to play a significant role in that growth is absolutely something Brad must tackle. He’s ready to do just that.

“I want to fundamentally up the value of the organization to the community and to the City of Edmonton.”

Recap: 2012 EEDC Annual Luncheon

Yesterday was EEDC’s Annual Luncheon at the Shaw Conference Centre. Now in its 17th year, the event was just as well attended as it was last year! Hosted by Manfred Kalk, Client Services Manager of the SCC, the event was an opportunity to learn about some recent changes at EEDC, to get an update on Edmonton’s economy, and to recognize three organizations that have made significant achievements in recognition, innovation, and community leadership.

First up was EEDC board chair Henry Yip, who talked about some recent successes in our province and about how Alberta can continue to succeed in the future. He also provided some updates on EEDC itself, thanking outgoing president Ron Gilbertson for all of his hard work over the last few years. Outgoing board members include Laura Schuler, Bob Gomes, and Peter Kiss, not to mention Henry Yip himself. The incoming board chair is Peter Silverstone.

EEDC board member Richard Brommeland was up next to hand out the annual achievement awards. The three winners were:

  • Donovan Creative Communications for recognition (those who bring extensive positive awareness and sustained name recognition of Edmonton).
  • Quantiam Technologies for innovation (those who have created or changed a product, process or business practice creating the broadest impact).
  • Homeward Trust Edmonton for community leadership (those who best engage our community or industry to achieve impactful positive change).

Each had the opportunity to speak for a few minutes after receiving their award, and a video was played for each organization as well. From the press release:

"Shortlisting the submissions was not an easy task," notes Richard Brommeland, EEDC board member and chair of the award selection committee. "The award winners do amazing work, and we are the better for them calling Edmonton home."

I know Donovan’s work fairly well. Among other things, they are responsible for EPL’s Spread the words campaign as well as EIA’s Stop the Calgary Habit. It’s great to see them recognized for bringing greater recognition to Edmonton. Quantiam I was not familiar with, but I learned that they are a nanotechnology company that recently created a joint venture with BSAF, the world’s largest chemical company. Exciting to hear that kind of thing happening here in Edmonton! And finally, Homeward Trust is an organization that is doing such important work in our city, so it’s completely appropriate that they were singled out for community leadership. Susan and her team have set the bar high. Congratulations to all three! You can see their videos here.

The keynote speaker was Ron Gilbertson himself, and he spent his time giving us an update on Edmonton’s economic report card (which you can look at here in PDF).

"Edmonton has a remarkable economic story. In 2011, our economy grew and showed momentum, and we are poised for a bright future," says Gilbertson. "Combine that with our quality of life, we are well on our way to becoming recognized as one of the world’s top mid-sized cities."

Overall, we received an “A-Minus” on our report card. The four main areas we need to work on are Office Vacancy Rates (C+), Inflation Rate (C), Annual Growth of Passenger Traffic at EIA (B), and Unemployment Rate (B+).

As everyone knows, our economy is built on oil and gas. Current and planned investment in the oil sands is around $290 billion, and that number is expected to grow. But we know it can’t last forever, something Ron acknowledged. “Should oil ever lose its lustre, we don’t really have a plan B.”

For the most part though, everyone was pretty upbeat about the local economy and our prospects for the future.

My thanks again to EEDC for hosting me at the luncheon! Be sure to follow @EEDC on Twitter for updates.

Recap: EEDC’s 2012 Economic Outlook Luncheon

EEDCOn November 15, EEDC held its annual Economic Outlook luncheon at the Shaw Conference Centre. Hundreds of Edmontonians filled Hall D on Tuesday to hear from a panel of senior leaders moderated by Dr. Mike Percy, the former Chamber of Commerce president and until this year Dean of the School of Business at the University of Alberta.

This year’s panelists included:

  • Dr. Jodi Abbott, President & CEO, Norquest College
  • Diane Brickner, President & CEO, Peace Hills Insurance Company
  • Pierre Gratton, President & CEO, Mining Association of Canada
  • Ron Liepert, Minister of Finance, Government of Alberta
  • Paul Verhesen, President, Clark Builders

The five panelists each shared their thoughts on the local economy before fielding questions from the audience. Here are a few of the more memorable statements the panelists made:

  • “We are very, very lucky to live where we do.” – Paul Verhesen
  • “Productivity and innovation are down as a result of not having to compete with others.” – Paul Verhesen
  • “I’m not sure there’s a better place than Alberta in the world to do business.” – Ron Liepert
  • “We do not have the population base to meet the expected labour-market demand.” – Dr. Jodi Abbott, indicating Alberta would have 77,00 unfilled jobs by the end of the decade.
  • “Mining is back.” – Pierre Gratton
  • “That will go.” – Ron Liepert, indicating the Royal Alberta Museum would in fact move ahead.

For more, check out the Edmonton Journal’s Storify of the event.

At the luncheon in 2009, I learned that Alberta’s aerospace industry is a billion dollar business. This year I learned a little more about the mining industry in our province. The Canadian Mining Journal summed it up well:

Canada’s mining industry will invest as much as $140 billion in this country over the next five years, and almost 50% of it will be in Alberta. The province will grow thanks to 12 mining projects proposed for development by 2016 with combined costs of $67.7 billion.

The $67.7 billion will be invested primarily in the oil, gas and oil sands development that Alberta is most known for, however significant investment is also anticipated in coal, limestone, salt, shale, dimension stone, ammonite shell, sandstone and sand and gravel.

Apparently Alberta accounts for 70% of Canada’s coal production (by weight) and is home to more than 540 mining industry suppliers.

Here is the Edmonton Journal’s story about the luncheon. Here is the Edmonton Sun’s take. And here is Avenue Edmonton’s article.

The Bridge

I thought EEDC did a great job with the event. The luncheon was livestreamed by the Edmonton Journal, and though they ran into some issues with the sound, it did appear to get more Edmontonians involved than usual. EEDC smartly chose a hashtag ahead of time, and made it clear to everyone that they should use #outlook12. They also displayed the tweets up on the big screen, and although it consistently ran behind, I thought it was a useful addition to the event. I expect both will get better in future years!

As enjoyable as the luncheon was, I found myself wishing there had been a handout or better yet, a QR code to scan that would take me to more information. I thought the panelists were great, but I can’t say I left with a strong sense of how Edmonton’s economy is expected to do in 2012. Fortunately, there is a bit of information online if you look for it.

Here is Cushman & Wakefield’s prognosis:

Overall vacancy is expected to increase in 2012 as a result of the market dynamics caused by recently completed Epcor Tower in the downtown core. Regardless, confidence in Edmonton’s economy is strong, despite continuing global economic uncertainty.

Canada Mortgage & Housing Corporation (CMHC) predicts 18% more housing units will be constructed across the province in 2012 than were built this year.

Edmonton will likely have 3,750 construction starts of multi-family housing this year, down less than four per cent from a year ago, says CMHC.

And from the City of Edmonton’s long-term economic outlook:

Few economies have prospects as bright as northern Alberta, at the geographic core of Canada’s economic future. As the research and industrial workhorse of the province, Edmonton stands tall as one of Canada’s most dynamic and prosperous urban centres.

The Economics Society of Northern Alberta is holding its 2012 Outlook Conference all day tomorrow at the Sutton Place Hotel, so watch for more news to come out of that event.

What else have you come across related to our economy in 2012?

Recap: 2011 EEDC Annual Luncheon

I was once again fortunate to attend EEDC’s Annual Luncheon, which took place yesterday at the Shaw Conference Centre. After 16 years, the luncheon has become a popular fixture downtown, and it showed yesterday with an absolutely packed Hall D. EEDC uses the event to highlight the work it is doing to help make Edmonton one of the world’s top five mid-sized cities by 2030, and also to honor local businesses making a difference with the EEDC Awards of Excellence. I enjoyed last year’s luncheon, but aside from the length, I thought this year’s was better. The production quality was much improved, with some great looking graphics and videos displayed on the giant screens. EEDC’s own Brent Beatty did an excellent job as the event’s emcee.

This year I was asked by EEDC if I would spend some time with Andrea Wahbe, a journalist visiting from Toronto to learn more about Edmonton’s tech scene. I readily agreed, and enjoyed sharing my take on Edmonton with her. Our conversation naturally touched on more than just technology, so hopefully I was able to provide some useful context. Andrea was only here a short time but she seemed to enjoy downtown, and got to make stops at the Art Gallery of Alberta, Transcend Jasper, and the Edmonton Research Park before heading home.

2011 EEDC Annual Luncheon2011 EEDC Annual Luncheon

The winners of the 2011 EEDC Awards of Excellence are:

From the press release:

“We have some of the best organizations in the country right here in Greater Edmonton that represent and reflect our corporate priority areas: leadership, innovation and recognition. It is an honour to acknowledge and recognize Stantec, Cleankeys and Master Flo Valve for the significant contribution to our community. They engage the community and act as a catalyst for change, while fostering innovation and increasing Edmonton’s visibility on a global level.”

The special mention award went to Hot To Huddle this year, for their work on the Grey Cup 2010 festival. EEDC Board Member Chris LaBossiere handed out the awards.

Ron Gilbertson, EEDC’s President and CEO, and Henry Yip, EEDC Board Chair, were both on hand to give remarks. Henry focused on recognizing the hard work that everyone at EEDC has done, and introduced the board. Ron spent his time discussing the economic situation here in Edmonton, though a little less formally than he did last year. The impending labour shortage was the hot topic, and Ron noted that our unemployment rate is about 5.8%, which is down from 7.3% just a year ago. “The days of Edmonton being a low-cost labour centre are gone,” he said.

One of the interesting things that EEDC did this year was text voting. Everyone in attendance was encouraged to answer three questions about Edmonton’s competitiveness via text message (they used Poll Everywhere). Unfortunately the event was running behind schedule so they only quickly flashed the results up on screen.

2011 EEDC Annual Luncheon

2011 EEDC Annual Luncheon2011 EEDC Annual Luncheon

Most people felt that Edmonton is “wandering” when it comes to competitiveness, we have strengths in some areas but not others, and we lack clear focus. The most critical issue affecting Edmonton’s future competitiveness was “labour supply”, with “investment in innovation” and “transportation and infrastructure” close behind. And finally, the vast majority of respondents said they have a plan to enhance competitiveness at their own companies.

The keynote speaker this year was Deborah L. Wince-Smith, President of the Council on Competitiveness (among other things). She spent her time talking about the revolution we’re experiencing in innovation. She cited things like Google, Facebook, and the iPad, but also talked about nanotechnology and high performance computing. I liked her catchphrase for the latter – “to outcompete you have to outcompute”. Though Deborah focused mainly on the United States, she did try to apply her comments to Edmonton a few times. She defined innovation as “I to the 5th power”: ideas, imagination, impact, individuals, and investment. I have to say that I felt mixed about Deborah’s keynote. Some of the things she said really resonated, while others (like her multiple comments about Facebook toppling dictatorial regimes) definitely did not. I liked the way she closed however, stating that “Edmonton is an energy hotspot, but the rest is up to you.”

Thanks to EEDC for inviting me to the annual luncheon. You can read the January update on Edmonton’s Economy in PDF here, and be sure to follow @EEDC on Twitter for updates.

Recap: 2010 EEDC Annual Luncheon

Today I joined hundreds of other Edmontonians at the 2010 EEDC Annual Luncheon, held at the Shaw Conference Centre. The event was an opportunity for EEDC to share its accomplishments over the past year, and to provide thoughts and guidance on the economic outlook for our city. Outgoing EEDC board chair Randy Ferguson got things underway with some thoughts on two of his favorite subjects: downtown, and EXPO 2017. Randy reiterated how important a downtown is to a city, and said that we must have the courage and commitment to make EXPO happen.

Next up was EEDC President & CEO Ron Gilbertson. Something that Ron has been showing a lot lately is the Edmonton Economic Dashboard, which grades our city on eight different aspects. Here’s where we are today:

  • Income/GDP – A
  • Retail Sales – A
  • Unemployment – B
  • Insolvency – C
  • Office Vacancy – A
  • Housing – B
  • Air Service – B
  • Inflation – A

Overall, that gives us a B+. Looking long-term, Ron gave Edmonton an A, saying:

Though Edmonton was not immune from the 2009 global decline, our economic fundamentals remain strong. Few economies have as bright prospects over the coming decades as Edmonton and northern Alberta.

EEDC Annual LuncheonEEDC Annual Luncheon

The 2010 EEDC Awards of Excellence were also handed out:

EPCOR President & CEO Don Lowry, Innovotech President Ken Boutilier, and AGA Chair Allan Scott were all on-hand to accept the awards on behalf of their respective organizations.

University of Alberta President Dr. Indira Samarasekera closed out the event with a phenomenal speech about the importance of working together (which you can read online here in PDF, or here). She focused on innovation, smarts, and creativity, and shared some really interesting and scary statistics (such as the low percentage of Albertans that go to post secondary). My favorite part though, was the beginning:

“I would like each of you to take your trusty digital device – Blackberry, iPhone, Palm, whatever you use – from your belt or pocket, or out of your bag and purse, and hold it in your hand,” she instructed. “Now, take a second moment to take a good look at it. In your hand, you hold the symbol of innovation. We call them smart phones. These smart phones have transformed our lives – our social lives, our business lives, our family lives, even our emotional and physical well being.”

It was a great way to start. She said one of our biggest challenges is speed – we have shorter incubation times than ever before, and we need to keep up (Innovotech’s Ken Boutilier talked about that too in his remarks). She also said that we need some BHAGs – Big Hairy Audacious Goals. And she stressed that both the City and the University desperately need to diversity their talent and economic bases. Dr. Samarasekera is a great speaker, and was definitely the highlight of the luncheon.

You can read the 2009 EEDC Annual Report here in PDF. Stay tuned to @EEDC on Twitter for updates.

EEDC’s 2010 Economic Outlook Luncheon

Today I had the pleasure of attending the 2010 Economic Outlook Luncheon, hosted by Edmonton Economic Development Corporation (EEDC) at the Shaw Conference Centre. More than 700 people attended. In addition to lunch and networking, the event featured an expert panel offering insight into the year ahead. The panelists included:

  • Hon. Iris Evans, Minister of Finance & Enterprise, Government of Alberta
  • Leo de Bever, CEO, Alberta Investment Management Corporation (AIMCo)
  • John Hokanson, retired entrepreneur
  • Dave Mowat, CEO, ATB Financial
  • Dr. Mike Percy, Dean of the School of Business, University of Alberta

Lesley MacDonald moderated, and EEDC President & CEO Ron Gilbertson gave the opening and closing remarks. Each panelist had an opportunity to make some remarks, and then members of the audience could ask questions. I live tweeted the event – here are some of the highlights:

  • Opening remarks from EEDC’s Ron Gilbertson: Canada’s economy is above average, Alberta and Edmonton average in Canada. #yeg
  • Iris Evans: over $1 billion, that’s the amount of aerospace and defence projects in #Alberta. #yeg #yyc
  • Leo de Bever: to have financial sustainability in #Alberta going forward, we need productivity growth.
  • John Hokanson says the livestock industry in #Alberta is shrinking at an alarming rate, affecting the entire agriculture industry.
  • John Hokanson says #Alberta and #yeg government spending are on unsustainable trajectories.
  • Dr. Mike Percy says it’s capital investment, particularly oilsands, that will lead #Alberta out of the recession, not consumers. #yeg
  • Dr. Mike Percy says a climate change policy in Canada not integrated with the US would be "insane at best". #yeg
  • Dr. Mike Percy says looking ahead, expect growth of about 2% in #Alberta, and it’ll be more robust north of Red Deer. #yeg
  • John Hokanson says young ppl entering the #Alberta workforce recently have no idea what goes into a day’s work. #yeg
  • Iris Evans says the new Alberta Art Gallery will be a very positive thing for #yeg and we need to recognize that.
  • Ron Gilbertson: #Alberta is one of the highest wage regions in North America. To compete, we need increased productivity. #yeg

I enjoyed economics enough during my time at the University of Alberta to minor it the subject, but I admit I felt quite rusty listening to the comments today. Especially Dr. Percy’s – he spoke with such confidence, knowledge, and ease. As you can imagine, I found John Hokanson’s dig at youth rather annoying. And I had no idea that Alberta’s aerospace industry was a billion dollar business. A quick Google search turned up this article (PDF):

The aviation and aerospace industry is comprised of firms that make aircraft and aircraft parts, perform aircraft maintenance, offer aircraft-related services and invent new technologies. The industry generates $1.3 billion in annual revenue, is home to 5,000 jobs exclusive of the airlines and airports, and exports 40 per cent of its products and services.

Fascinating! Apparently Canada’s aviation and aerospace industry is the fourth largest in the world, generating more than $22 billion in annual revenue.

EEDC's 2010 Economic OutlookEEDC's 2010 Economic Outlook

I thought the panelists sounded relatively optimistic, and though there are definitely challenges ahead, Edmonton and Alberta seem well-positioned to emerge from the recession to start experiencing growth once more.

One other thing I wanted to mention was the Edmonton Journal advertisement that everyone received. It was a small cardboard box advertising that the Journal is “Mobile Ready!” on both the iPhone and BlackBerry. Inside was a card with instructions on adding a shortcut for a variety of devices, as well as a small “EJ” screen cleaner. I think pushing mobile right now is a smart move, and I thought the advertisement was very well done.

Thanks to Jenifer Christenson for inviting me out today!

Budget Day 2009 in Canada – track it online

Though a lot of information about the new budget has already been released, there are sure to be some surprises and of course, interesting discussions taking place throughout the day. Finance Minister Jim Flaherty will deliver his budget speech in the House of Commons at roughly 4 PM EST (2 PM MST) today. All the major Canadian media outlets will have coverage, and some even have unique online coverage too.

Here’s how to track Budget Day 2009 online:

And a few other interesting links:

Here in Edmonton, the federal wish list comes in at $2.4 billion. I’m sure the capital notebook blog and Dave Cournoyer will have more on today’s news from a local perspective.

It’ll be interesting to see how the day plays out! I’ll update the post if I come across any more useful links – leave me a comment if you have one to suggest!

UPDATE: There’s a word cloud of Flaherty’s speech available here, and you can read the full text of the speech here.

UPDATE2: Here’s a PDF of the budget, courtesy of The Globe and Mail.

UPDATE3: The official Budget 2009 site also has the PDF and some other information, but is very slow.

UPDATE4: A number of responses from organizations (CUPE, CFIB, etc.) are available at Canadian Newswire.