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Category: Hicks on Biz columns from The Edmonton Sun

Hicks on Biz columns from The Edmonton Sun

Hicks on Biz: Farewell economic diversity, hello resiliency By GRAHAM HICKS, first published Edmonton Sun, September 7, 2018

Derek Hudson took over as the new CEO of the Edmonton Economic Development Corporation on Aug. 8, 2018.Greg Southam / Postmedia By GRAHAM HICKS I think I understand. Sorta. The new head of the Edmonton Economic Development (EEDC) – the city’s business development agency – wants to change the worn-out economic buzz word “diversity” to the more practical notion of “resiliency.” “Diversity is fine,” says Derek Hudson, just promoted from within the organization to take over the EEDC leadership reins from Brad Ferguson. “But the reality is most of our economic fortune is tied back to the price of oil and heavy industrial construction. “To be resilient is for the city to withstand the shocks that hit us – swings in commodity prices, geo-political (i.e. pipelines/tariffs); to work towards an economy that’s more balanced, to encourage sectors that work in different business cycles.” Ferguson was all abou ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: Epcor’s river valley solar farm is a non-starter By GRAHAM HICKS, first published Edmonton Sun, August 31, 2018

 A rendering of the proposed solar farm at the E.L. Smith water treatment centre. This view is looking west from a recreational trail across the river. Epcor, supplied It is  impossible to see how Edmonton’s city council can support Epcor’s proposal to build a 45,000 solar-panel, multi-hectare solar-electricity facility … in the heart of the North Saskatchewan River Valley park system. Oh! It’s not Epcor’s proposal! It’s Edmonton city council’s proposal! With the weirdest of logic, our city council is willing to destroy the natural environment to save the atmospheric environment! Here’s why. The City of Edmonton owns Epcor. City vouncil is its ultimate board of directors. It’s city council, not Epcor, that insists the city-owned water/sewage utility falls in line with the city’s “green” policies, to produce at least 10 per cent of the power it uses from “local” renewable power sources. Can&rsqu ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: Climate leadership is tearing Canada apart By GRAHAM HICKS, first published Edmonton Sun, August 24, 2018

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna.THE CANADIAN PRESS By GRAHAM HICKS Climate leadership is tearing Canada apart. Geographical regions are divided, First Nations’ groups are divided, governments are divided, political parties are divided, families are divided. In the past, almost all Canadians supported the great national projects that created today’s prosperity — the cross-Canada railroads, the St. Lawrence Seaway, the great hydro-electricity projects of B.C., Quebec, Manitoba and Newfoundland/Labrador. Today, Canada’s biggest potential prosperity-builder is construction of new or expanded pipelines and new ocean ports to export Western Canadian oil and natural gas to Eastern Canada, Asia, Europe and the USA. But these pipelines have become the central battleground, the symbolic line in the sand, between those convinced too much CO2 (from the burning of fossil fuels) is causing world-destroying global warming, a ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: The tyranny of the greater good By GRAHAM HICKS, first published Edmonton Sun, August 17, 2018

Oh city hall! When the mayor gets so mad that he publicly lambasts bureaucrats for inane decisions, like a “renewal fee” to keep family-purchased memorial plaques on park benches, you know the bureaucracy has run amok. Around city hall, “empowerment” has been in vogue. Empower middle management to make decisions without approvals from the upper ranks. Theoretically decisions and implementation will be sped up. Imagine the scenario. Deep in the bowels of the Department of City Services, a low-level management meeting is taking place. As always, junior managers are under pressure from the higher-ups to reduce spending and increase revenues.  A young minion at the meeting comes up with the idea of increasing income from park bench memorial plaques by introducing renewal fees … in the thousands of dollars! What a fine idea, the manager in charge of park bench revenues replies; a nice easy way of raising a few hundred thousand dollars! And thanks to “empow ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: Raise a Glass to the Re-developers By GRAHAM HICKS, first published Edmonton Sun, Aug. 10, 2018

Developer Ivan Beljan poses for a photo in front of the now sold Strathcona Hotel at 10302 82 Avenue in Edmonton, on Friday, July 13, 2018. His company Beljan Development is planning a redevelopment of the historic building. Photo by Ian Kucerak/PostmediaIan Kucerak Ian Kucerak / Ian Kucerak/Postmedia By GRAHAM HICKS An Edmonton renaissance is happening, under our very eyes. Hundreds of old buildings, most built between 1911 and 1915, are being “re-developed” by a new breed of developer. Re-development is much more than renovation. Old buildings are gutted, stripped down to their bones and re-built, but in a style respecting historical roots. It’s a beautiful thing: The Brighton Block, Strathcona Hotel, Williams Hall (the original downtown YMCA), Molson Brewery, Old Strathcona’s Crawford Block, Mercer Building, Gibbard Block (La Boheme), Substation 600 on 124 St, the Oliver Exchange, even the Camsell Hospital … the list of buildings being restored/re-built ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: Edmonton start-ups show demand for computer sciences By GRAHAM HICKS, first published EDMONTON SUN August 3, 2018

Brian Heath (left, President, Drivewyze) and Brian Moffard (right, Vice President, Technology, Drivewyze) at a commercial vehicle inspection station south of Edmonton on August 24, 2017. Drivewyze is an Edmonton based startup company that delivers commercial vehicle safety solutions, specifically, a GPS and internet based weigh station bypass service. The company operates in most American states and just starting to work in Alberta.Larry Wong / POSTMEDIA NETWORK By GRAHAM HICKS The smartest advice to any kid graduating from a Metro Edmonton high school, who happens to like Alberta and plans on staying:  At university or technical college, specialize in Computing Sciences/Information Technology/Artificial Intelligence. For this column, I re-visited Edmonton companies that six years ago were mostly “start-ups”, i.e. small companies formed by innovative entrepreneurs to create and sell new, specialized products. It takes hard work with little pay for a start-up company to b ... Read the rest of entry »

HICKS ON BIZ: The sanitization of death By GRAHAM HICKS first published EDMONTON SUN July 27, 2018

Ashes to ashes: One of two crematoriums at Serenity Funeral Service. Photos by GRAHAM HICKS/EDMONTON SUNEdmonton Garry Howdle admits to being old-school. As president and funeral director of the not-for-profit Serenity Funeral Service, he carries out the wishes of clients — the deceased person’s family — from weeks of mourning down to simple cremation in a pine box  with no ritual, no mourning, no goodbyes. Personally, he worries. He believes the growing lack of ritual, the “sanitization of death” has become avoidance of sadness, indeed, avoidance of death itself. He worries about an absence of psychological closure for those close to the deceased, comfort once provided by religious ritual. Few businesses have been as impacted by changes in Canadian society as funeral service providers. Forty years ago,  Mom or Dad would pass on, the adult children gathered at a funeral home for evenings of prayers and viewing, often with an open casket. After a church fune ... Read the rest of entry »

HICKS ON BIZ: Alberta's long, long haul back to prosperity By GRAHAM HICKS, first published EDMONTON SUN July 19, 2018

Premier Rachel Notley, and Minister of Finance Joe Ceci, arrive at Scotsman's Hill in Calgary on Wednesday July 4, 2018. Leah Hennel/Postmedia So what’s happening out there? The Alberta government, 10 months at most away from the next provincial election, is holding up the economic glass and pronouncing it just about darned full. Business leaders wonder what brand of almost-legal marijuana Alberta Premier Rachel Notley and her financial minister Joe Ceci have been smoking. Edmonton’s been okay. Our financial health is underpinned by near 25% of the citizenry being on government and quasi-government (health/education) payroll, which the union-friendly NDP government has not cut. But Calgary was devastated, and most of Northern Alberta’s oil/gas regional centres – Cold Lake, Drayton Valley, Grande Prairie – are still in shock from the oil price crash of 2014, plus increased corporate and personal taxes, carbon taxes and increases to the minimum wage. In late Jun ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: Greyhound pull-out a shock, but not a surprise By GRAHAM HICKS, first published EDMONTON SUN, July 13, 2018

Passengers disembark on May 29, 2016, from the first Greyhound bus to stop at the new Greyhound station, which opened in the Via Rail location at 12360 121 St.Ed Kaiser / Postmedia That Greyhound Canada abruptly pulled out of Western Canada – and it doesn’t get more abrupt than three months’ notice – was a shock. But, in retrospect, the end of Greyhound (Western Canada) should not have been a surprise. Greyhound was operating on an obsolete model of scheduled bus service at fixed prices, leaving at the same time of day and heading out on the same routes no matter the demand or number of passengers on board, not caring about how passengers got to-and-from its bus depots. It also explains why Greyhound seemed content at its “temporary” bus station in some moose pasture (the VIA Rail terminal) out by the Yellowhead and 122 Street, having moved after the downtown bus station land was sold to Daryl Katz’s ICE District development company. In retrospe ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: Alberta can tackle social programs because of strong economic bedrock By GRAHAM HICKS, first published EDMONTON SUN, July 6, 2018

Edmonton skylineJason Franson / Postmedia By GRAHAM HICKS On Canada Day, Alberta’s news reports were all about righting wrongs from Canada’s past, be it racism, mistreatment of First Nations peoples, gender inequality, LGBTQ pride and acceptance. These are all fine causes worthy of our attention. But what is sometimes lost is that the ability of our province to devote so much to sociological/cultural issues rests on a solid economic bedrock and a high standard of living. Without far-sighted decisions made in the past, Alberta’s economy would be nowhere close to what it is today. Let’s celebrate, and teach our children, about the historical choices and people that have made Edmonton and Northern Alberta one of the most materially prosperous places on Earth. On my list would be: The building of Fort Edmonton:  If the Hudson’s Bay Company hadn’t built Fort Edmonton (1795 to 1891), Edmonton wouldn’t be here in the first place. The Cana ... Read the rest of entry »
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