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Category: Hicks on Biz columns from The Edmonton Sun

Hicks on Biz columns from The Edmonton Sun

Worker shortage looms again: Hicks on Biz column originally published in Edmonton Sun, April 7, 2012

Remember the bumper sticker from the ‘80s, “Please God, let there be another oil boom. I promise not to piss it all away the next time.” That, of course, was two booms ago.Now we are on the cusp, the very beginning of the third.We seem to be getting smarter at this, but not much.All the corporate talk at the downtown Ricky’s Grill in the mornings, at the Hardware Grill at lunch, is about the impending labour shortage.“Workforce, workforce, workforce,” says Edmonton Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Martin Salloum. “That’s all our members are talking about.”Driven by the global need for our clean oil, Northern Alberta is relentlessly growing. New oil extraction plants come on stream nearly every month in the oilsands. Conventional oil wells are resurrected thanks to new technology. Natural gas is readying for an inevitable recovery once it can be shipped to Asia and replaces coal in electricity generation.Brains and brawn are needed for all the above. Geologists to find the energy, engineers to design the in ... Read the rest of entry »

Wanted: A simplified income tax system: Hicks on Biz column first published in the Edmonton Sun Sat. March 31, 2012

So it’s A) election time in Wild Rose country, B) budget time in Ottawa and C) tax time across the country.A time of ideas, of debate, of what government can and can’t do.But for heaven’s sake, the average Edmontonian keeps getting worked over!It’s about our wretched, overly complicated and deeply deceptive tax system.When the Income Tax Act was introduced in 1917, it was 11 pages long.Today, it’s 3,000 pages.Tax “credits” have crept a long, crept along.With every new government budget, a new tax credit is introduced for this, for that, for everything under the moon.Politicians love tax credits (or rebates, or deferrals, or deductions, or non-refundable tax credits, or allowable business expenses, machinery depreciation allowances, adjustments, QC or YET abatement, WITB, RDSP, UCC, CCA, SH&RD … ).Tax credits make’em look good. Here’s a tax credit for a bus pass, for your kid’s soccer fees, or a tax rebate if you buy an energy-efficient fridge. Vote for me!!!The corporate world and the politicians are hooked o ... Read the rest of entry »

Complicated credit cards - what's the best deal? Hicks on Biz column originally published in the Edmonton Sun March 23, 2012

How complicated can credit-card comparisons get? It was a simple exercise in personal finances — I thought. Out of all those credit cards, those thousands of credit cards, which ones offer the best value for loyalty program points? Travel points are addictive. To qualify for trips, you end up packing every purchase possible onto your credit card. Which is what the credit card issuer wants. Even if you never pay a dime of interest, they collect a 1% to 3% fee from the merchant as a transaction fee. Complicated! To keep things simple, I only compared travel-point cards to travel-points cards, and cash-back cards to cash-back cards. At least I thought it would be simple. To calculate the value of travel-point cards, I'd measure the number of points needed for the equivalent of a seat sale to Vancouver, say $400 excluding taxes. And cash-back cards, what could be simpler? If you're packing $30,000 a year, or $2,500 a month onto your credit card, how much cash do you get back? (Assu ... Read the rest of entry »

Many Ways to Move Our Oil - Hicks on Biz column from The Edmonton Sun of Sat. March 17, 2012

One way or another, our bitumen (heavy oil) will get to China. There's a myth building up that the proposed but seriously opposed Northern Gateway pipeline is the only option to get oil from the oil sands to Asia.Not true. It's the most practical and likely the cheapest option, heading straight as an arrow from Edmonton through the northern B.C. interior to the port town of Kitimat.Here's the deal.We now produce 2.9 million barrels of oil a day (MBD) in Western Canada, about 60% of that from the oil sands.We can't come close to using that much - 2.1 million barrels are exported, fairly easily at the moment through existing pipelines, 99% of it heading to the Excited States.The source of our wealth? Do the math! At $100 a barrel, that's $210 million a day — or about $75 billion a year.By 2020, only eight years, we'll be up to 3.5 million barrels a day. Of that, 80% will be from the oil sands.The pipelines will get crowded. The last thing we want, as the principal beneficiaries of this thick black gooey stuff, ... Read the rest of entry »

Big Bucks for young Albertans: Hicks on Biz column originally published in the Edmonton Sun, Friday, March 9, 2012

A friend of mine had a kid finishing high school. He was a smart, practical young man with a good attitude, but he didn’t have a clue what he wanted to do. They made a practical decision. They looked at the projected earnings for grads from NAIT’s technology programs. Off he went to enroll in the course with the highest earning potential. Good decision. Three to four years after graduation, he’s an electrical engineering technologist. Now 24, this young man is pulling down $100,000 a year in base salary, half that again in overtime. Plus benefits. Welcome to Alberta, 2012, where young adults – with the right diploma and a willingness to work – are often making $100,000 a year. There’s cause for concern – too much money, too fast, too young, unrealistic expectations, and so on. But as long as the building boom continues in the oilsands (and it will continue, with $20 billion being spent on construction alone in 2012) , skilled ... Read the rest of entry »

Oil's well with Alberta Energy - Hicks on Biz column from The Edmonton Sun, originally posted Saturday, March 03, 2012

Oil's well with Alberta energy 6 BY GRAHAM HICKS ,EDMONTON SUNFIRST POSTED: SATURDAY, MARCH 03, 2012 12:29 PM MST | UPDATED: SATURDAY, MARCH 03, 2012 12:39 PM MST 1Change text size for the storyPrint this storyReport an error If you’re going to understand the nature of business in Edmonton, understand just one thing.All roads lead to energy.Oil, natural gas, and that poor kid on the wrong side of the environmental tracks, coal.You likely know the essentials – 300 to 600 million years ago, all things lush and green were deeply buried and eventually decayed into hydrocarbon molecules.Mother Nature did us a big favour, pushing up the Rockies so those hydrocarbons oozed eastward and were concentrated under what happily happened to be Alberta.Generally speaking, natural gas is really deep, conventional oil is deep, and heavy oil close to the surface. Alberta sits on top of one of the world’s 40 major oil basins.Ever since the Leduc #1 oil well hit pay dirt in 1947, we have fretted over oil’s end.Once the big under ... Read the rest of entry »

Reaction to my first Hicks On Biz column in the Edmonton Sun

Now I know why Edmonton has to fight to change its own perception of itself. My first business column for the Edmonton Sun, published on Sat. Feb. 25, was about Edmonton's need to blow its own horn, to recognize that we are so darn lucky compared to just about every other mid-sized city in the world, for wages, employment, value housing, educational opportunities and so on. You would not have believed some of the negativity expressed in the "comments" section of the online story! Edmonton-deadmonton; a dark, depressing, boring, crime-ridden city; nothing to be proud of; a general population of delusional, angry, sociopathic, aggressive, antagonistic, self centered, disillusioned people; boring as hell; homelessness; price-gouging; high rents; high cost of power .... What is with these people? How have they allowed themselves to enter into such a downward spiral of negativity about the city they live in? Why, as some other readers asked, do they continue to live here? I'll tell you what. It's about them, not t ... Read the rest of entry »

Edmonton isn't getting the credit it deserves - Hicks on Biz column from The Edmonton Sun, originally posted Friday, Feb. 24, 2012

By Graham Hicks ,Edmonton Sun First posted: Friday, February 24, 2012 05:10 PM MST | Updated: Friday, February 24, 2012 05:13 PM MST I’m sick and tired of Edmonton being Canada’s forgotten city. Every time, on every national newscast, it’s about Toronto, Montreal, Calgary and Vancouver. Where’s Edmonton in the national consciousness? Where’s our hustle and bustle? Welcome to Hicks on Biz, the new weekly Edmonton Sun business column with one overriding objective — to let you, and the rest of the world, know that Edmonton is the most dynamic, fastest growing, best-quality-of-life, best-positioned-for-the-future city in Canada. And, if any of our cylinders aren’t firing as they should, constructive commentary will be offered to stay on course. We’ll do this mainly through looking at Edmonton’s economy in cold, hard numbers. Numbers can be manipulated, but they don’t lie. Nothing makes the case for prosperity like the number of jobs, amount ... Read the rest of entry »
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