HicksBiz Blog

Category: Hicks on Biz columns from The Edmonton Sun

Hicks on Biz columns from The Edmonton Sun

Hicks on Biz: Viewtrak - Making lemonade from lemons BY GRAHAM HICKS FIRST POSTED EDMONTON SUN: THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 23, 2017

One door closes. Another opens. Every cloud has its silver lining. Should life hand you lemons, make lemonade. Ted Power and Hubert Lau, co-presidents of Edmonton-based Viewtrak Technologies, specialize in making lemonade out of lemons. In 2012, the two businessmen were asked by a group of Alberta investors to manage Viewtrak, a livestock tracing company created in the aftermath of the mad cow disease crisis internationally and then in Canada in 2003. Viewtrak had since run into financial difficulty. Last year, Viewtrak was named Exporter of the Year by the Alberta Business Awards of Distinction for its PG-207 pork grader probe – a best-seller in China. The company is a finalist for the 2017 Small Business of the Year in the same awards, and was just named Innovator of the Year at the Canada-wide 2017 Air Miles Small Business Achievement Awards. Before Viewtrak, Power’s business expertise was in traceability. His Trace Applications company is a leading supplier of traceability pr ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: The good, the bad and the spending BY GRAHAM HICKS FIRST POSTED EDMONTON SUN: FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 17, 2017

Keeping tabs on government spending around our fair city … Bringing Mill Creek back to the surface is a wonderful idea. It now dips underground (between the Connors Road/Scona Road split) and flows into the North Saskatchewan as if it were a sewer outlet. But then the dreamers come in with lakes, parks, restaurants and sugar plums … “not over $100 million,” says one hopeful advocate. *** Fort Edmonton Park needs $70 million worth of infrastructure upgrades just to keep the toilets flushing. So that’s a necessary expenditure. The proposed $42 million Indigenous People’s Experiences Interpretive Centre at Fort Edmonton is a good investment too … if it truly brings international and national tourists to Edmonton who’d otherwise not come. Mayor Don Iveson was suggesting a few months back that the soon-to-be-vacant old Provincial Museum building could be redeveloped into yet another Indigenous People’s showcase. What’s another $100 milli ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: Government should do away with grants BY GRAHAM HICKS FIRST POSTED EDMONTON SUN: FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 03, 2017

We the general public are like sheep, our wool unceremoniously shorn year after year for use by others. Not for the greater good – not for those truly needing help, but for groups and individuals who don’t need our money. It’s not the government, but government as conduit. Governments pass along your tax money to others in the form of grants (or tax credits, which are grants by another name). But the people getting those grants - in businesses, not-for-profit organizations, or individuals – don’t need your money any more than you do. They’re just smarter! They figure out where the money is, and they go get it! They research government programs, figure out how to apply for whatever grants are on offer, pay a professional grant-writer to write the application, and bingo, wind up with a $10,000, $50,000, $100,000, $10,000,000 grant! There are literally hundreds of government-sponsored, grant-giving agencies - Emissions Reduction Alberta, Sustainable Developme ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: Bed-Blockers remain a problem for Alberta hospitals BY GRAHAM HICKS FIRST POSTED EDMONTON SUN: THURSDAY, JANUARY 26, 2017

It’s a chronic problem that never seems to go away. The term “bed-blockers” is no longer used, but the issue remains. At any given time, around 400 hospital beds in Alberta (one-third in Edmonton) are taken up by bed-ridden seniors waiting for placement in long-term care/nursing home/assisted-living facilities. The wait times aren’t readily available from Alberta Health Services, but in some Ontario hospitals, the wait time has grown longer and longer, from an average 18 days in 2004 to 69 days today. The cost per patient per day in Alberta hospitals is $1,500 per day. Long-term institutional care cost is $100 to $200 per day. The NDP government is fulfilling an election promise to create 2,000 more long-term care beds by 2019, with $500 million committed to date. The cost to the health care system won’t drop – those hospital beds will be filled the moment they are vacated. But with beds freed up, horrific emergency room wait times could be reduced. It’s a para ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on biz: Innovation means fewer jobs BY GRAHAM HICKS FIRST POSTED EDMONTON SUN: THURSDAY, JANUARY 19, 2017

The Old Guys’ Drinking Club had gathered, as usual, in a neighbourhood pub. The conversation turned, as usual, to incoming American President Donald Trump. At least give him a chance, I ventured to opine into a sea of scorn for the new American president. Let’s see if Trump can deliver on his promise to bring back jobs exported by American companies to lower-cost countries like China, Mexico and India. “No way,” said the high-tech business man sipping on his scotch. “The man is not only a sexist, racist buffoon, but any new jobs in America, repatriated or not, will be automated. “Trump isn’t going to create jobs – those jobs are gone. They are being done by robots or AI (artificial intelligence).” Therein lies the rub. Alberta has been focused on the job losses in the oil patch, which, the New Democrat government assures us, will be offset by government-encouraged new jobs in a new, diverse economy. Our challenge is more than simple jo ... Read the rest of entry »


Edmonton Economic Development Corporation (EEDC) boss Brad Ferguson said all the right things in his annual state-of-the-economic-union speech at the EEDC’s annual Impact luncheon last Tuesday. The old ideological “left” and “right” are dead. We should come together, right now, all Albertans, develop a 20 year industrial plan and stick with it “to get out of this mess.” Ferguson’s plan has some glaring holes, the first of which it’s yet another plan. It’s not even a plan. It’s a plan to have a plan. Plans are what politicians propose when they can’t think of anything better. In the debates leading up to the American presidential election, Hillary Clinton had a “plan” for this, a “program” for that. Donald Trump didn’t talk about plans, he talked action: Bringing American companies back to America; stopping illegal migration from Mexico; lowering corporate taxes; relaxing regulations to create a pr ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: Political correctness has run amok BY GRAHAM HICKS FIRST POSTED EDMONTON SUN: FRIDAY, JANUARY 06, 2017

It’s a subject where one fears to tread, but it needs be said. Political correctness is casting a smothering blanket over one of Canada’s greatest and most consistent ideals, freedom of speech and civilized discourse. It’s right and good that four major issues of the 21st century – climate change, the environment, aboriginal reconciliation and gender liberation – have surfaced as priorities and are being championed with enthusiasm and political will. But enthusiasm is too often evolving into dogmatism and self-righteousness. If you’re not 100 per cent with us, you’re against us. Do not question – you will be vilified and scorned. Civility and politeness, much-praised aspects of Canadian behaviour, have left the room. Today, perhaps because of the anonymity of Internet-facilitated commentary, intelligent individuals too often resort to personal insults rather than debate the issues at hand. Climate change has become a rigid ideology, best illustrat ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz year-ender 2016: The worst is in the past BY GRAHAM HICKS FIRST POSTED EDMONTON SUN: FRIDAY, DECEMBER 30, 2016

I’m going on out a limb. Edmonton Economic Development Corporation head Brad Ferguson is predicting a grim 2017 for Metropolitan Edmonton. City economist John Rose is forecasting a 1.8% growth in the local economy, compared to his prediction of 3.8% growth in 2016. But in my crystal ball, the worst is past. No ideological considerations here, no remarks – however accurate – about monstrous government spending and deficits, about the new “haves” in our society – public-sector employees — and “have-nots” – those without government jobs. All that counts, in this argument, are jobs, jobs, jobs. The New Democrat provincial government, in the short-term, is saving Edmonton’s bacon. It refuses to consider lay-offs, continues to fund the education, health and public sectors at existing levels. Given a quarter of Metro Edmonton’s workforce is found in pubic/quasi-public sectors, this is a good thing; at least until the gove ... Read the rest of entry »


Dear Santa, I hope you don’t mind, but can we use your big, fat, jolly shoulder to cry on? We shouldn’t really. Ours are first-world problems. But they’re aggravating! Santa, what happened to the old-fashioned notion that governments should do as little as possible besides take care of the poor, provide security and keep taxes low? Why does Edmonton city council keep sticking its nose into social issues (like low-income housing) that the provincial government is supposed to handle? Shouldn’t the city stick to paving roads, building sidewalks, policing, fire-fighting, basic services … and keep property taxes as low as possible? Santa, this climate-change thing is absurd. We barely contribute to global warming, yet this government acts as if we pollute like China! In the middle of a recession, a huge environmental tax hits us next week pulling even more money out of our pockets.  Then a new bureaucracy will be created to give much of the money back!  Sa ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: Adopt-A-Teen - Helping One Family At A Time BY GRAHAM HICKS FIRST POSTED EDMONTON SUN: SATURDAY, DECEMBER 10, 2016

One by one, employees are called into the boss’s office. Termination notices are issued, individuals ushered to their desk with 10 minutes to gather belongings and turn in keys. Security guards escort them to the front door. No one likes layoffs, but, hey, the next day it’ll be business as usual for the organization. Not for the ex-employee, not for her or his family. Especially with Christmas approaching. Especially for the children. Especially for the teens. The families of the recently laid-off, of those down-sized in the oilpatch, of recently arrived refugees, of the underemployed are hurting this Christmas. Kids are watching their parents fall apart because of financial stress. For those of us fortunate enough to have kept our homes and our living standards, much must be asked. With your help, three extraordinary charities work arm-in-arm to ensure every child in Edmonton aged zero to 17 will have a Christmas gift, and every family on a limited income will have a festive meal. ... Read the rest of entry »