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Category: Hicks on Biz columns from The Edmonton Sun

Hicks on Biz columns from The Edmonton Sun

Hicks on Biz: Admirable sentiment, wrong government By GRAHAM HICKS, first published EDMONTON SUN, July 12, 2019

St. Albert Coun. Natalie Joly asked council to look at banning conversion therapy within its municipal boundaries.Shaughn Butts / Postmedia By GRAHAM HICKS A little bit of this, a little bit of that … LET THE PROVINCE DEAL WITH SOCIAL ISSUES Why is St. Albert City Council passing rhetorical, unenforceable bylaws on social issues way outside of its jurisdiction, i.e. a ban on conversion therapy? It’s a fine sentiment . Nobody should be forcibly brainwashed into changing their sexual orientation. But it’s the wrong level of government. In Alberta, municipalities are responsible for maintaining and building civic infrastructure, transit, public safety and providing recreation/leisure facilities for their citizens. The province and the federal government are responsible for social issues. The creation and enforcement of laws dealing with discrimination, human rights (including sexual/gender preference and choice) and ethical decisions – such as legal suicide, or c ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: High-tech sector is finally catching fire BY GRAHAM HICKS, first published EDMONTON SUN July 5, 2019

Richard Sutton, a pioneer in artificial intelligence and distinguished research scientist with Google DeepMind and professor of computer science with Amii, speaking during AccelerateAB, an annual technology convention at the Shaw Conference Centre in Edmonton on April 24, 2018.Ed Kaiser / Postmedia, file By GRAHAM HICKS I surrender. I capitulate. For the past decade, I have been skeptical about this high-tech, innovation, disruption, knowledge-based business “eco-system” allegedly being built in Edmonton. Show me the money! Show me the employment! Show me the University of Alberta computer science PhD students staying in Edmonton for career opportunities! Show me the office space leased to these companies! Well, after a decade of incubators, accelerators, tax breaks, government grants, interest-free loans and wheel-spinning, it is finally happening. In the last six months, some $40 million in venture capital from around the world has flowed into early-stage high-tech compan ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: Big changes in Jasper By GRAHAM HICKS, first published EDMONTON SUN, June 28, 2019

Welcome to Jasper sign is seen on the east entrance to the National Park town. File photoTom Braid / Tom Braid/Edmonton Sun/Postmedia By GRAHAM HICKS Does it matter who actually owns a well-known building, a shopping mall, a condo tower, a hotel? Not really. Usually it’s just Big Money being shuffled around – pension, insurance funds, major developers  – buying and selling to each other. Except for the exceptions. Jasper’s hotel ownership has just gone through its biggest shake-up ever. An entire culture is changing:  Jasper’s Mountain Park Lodges (MPL) chain, owned by the same group of Edmonton families for the past 50 years, has sold controlling interest (60%) in its seven hotels to hospitality company Pursuit. Pursuit, in turn, is a division of a global hotel/hospitality services company known as Viad Corporation, with $1.3 billion in revenues last year. Viad is a public company, traded on the New York Stock Exchange. Pursuit is actually a ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: Epcor river valley solar farm bandwagon? By GRAHAM HICKS, first published EDMONTON SUN, June 21, 2019

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.Supplied, Epcor By GRAHAM HICKS This past week, for two long afternoons, I was glued to my computer screen watching (at councilontheweb.edmonton.ca) Edmonton’s city council deal with Epcor’s application to build an enormous solar power farm, right beside its E.L. Smith water treatment plant in the river valley just north of the Henday Drive southwest bridge. The rationale is to provide “sustainable” power for the treatment plant. As a commentator, my own bias is clear. I deeply believe, as do most Edmontonians, that the river valley is a sacred public trust, a multi-kilometre stretch of uninterrupted, beautiful riverside parkland. No other city in the world has been so blessed. Other than essential infrastructure (i.e. water and waste-water services, bridges) no further industrial development should ever be allowed in the riv ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: NO to the Epcor solar farm proposal By GRAHAM HICKS, originally published Edmonton Sun, June 14, 2019

Epcor's proposed solar farm at the E. L. Smith water treatment centre, a rendering from the perspective of someone standing on Anthony Henday Drive.Epcor / Supplied By GRAHAM HICKS I like Epcor. I really do. I like the notion of a city-owned company successfully competing in the free market, this year delivering a monstrous $171 million shareholder dividend to the city. Epcor has been so good for the city. A far-sighted decision to become a global water/sewage treatment company has paid off handsomely. At home Epcor provides excellent water (and power transmission) facilities for the City of Edmonton. When Epcor opted for the water route, it bundled up its power-generation assets to create Capital Power. With 700 employees mostly in Edmonton, Capital Power has grown into another city-headquartered corporate powerhouse. So I am even more baffled and dismayed at Epcor’s desire to industrialize and clutter up Edmonton’s pristine river valley with  45,000 solar panels, t ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: High expectations for Canada's cannabis industry By GRAHAM HICKS, first published EDMONTON SUN, June 8, 2019

One of the first cannabis crops at Freedom Cannabis is growing within strictly controlled circumstances. Graham Hicks / Postmedia Don’t get carried away. Despite much wishful thinking, Alberta’s brand-new legalized cannabis industry is NOT going to replace oil and gas. Alberta produces and exports 3.7 million barrels of oil and diluted bitumen PER DAY – at roughly $50 Cdn. per barrel, that’s $185 million PER DAY, or $1.3 billion PER WEEK. The federal government estimates total cannabis retail sales (legal) for all Canada this year will be around $726 million. Even if we double that number,  for spending on wholesale cannabis production, greenhouse construction, legal and accounting services, even if we add on the salaries of some 2,000 cannabis retail store employees and maybe 1,500 cannabis greenhouse workers … it’s the equivalent of – at most – two weeks of provincial oil and gas gross revenue. That said, the emerging cannabi ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: Why cheap beef may be a thing of the past By GRAHAM HICKS, first published EDMONTON SUN, May 31, 2019

A new trade deal with China is good news for Alberta cattle producers.Postmedia By GRAHAM HICKS Why is beef so expensive, and pork so cheap? A nice four-pound (two kilogram) pork tenderloin for the family’s Sunday get together clocks in at a reasonable $20. The equivalent prime rib beef roast – two kilograms – would cost about $80! You can’t even buy a prime rib roast anymore! At the west-end Superstore earlier this week, all the roasts were cheaper cuts of beef – outside round for $13 a kilogram, blade roasts for $15 a kilogram. “We don’t make prime rib roasts anymore,” the meat counter clerk said. “They’re so expensive. People just don’t buy them.” Do you not vaguely remember a time when a good roast of beef and a pork tenderloin cost about the same? When beef ribs, kilo for kilo, were close to pork chops in price? When a 16-ounce porterhouse or a t-bone steak in a good restaurant didn’t cost a jaw-dropping $40 to $50 ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: Driverless in Beaumont By GRAHAM HICKS first published EDMONTON SUN, May 24, 2019

The City of Beaumont unveiled ELAElectric Autonomous, the first Electric Autonomous Shuttle experience open to the community and will be free to ride, during a press conference in Beaumont, May 16, 2019. This will be Canada's first-ever pilot of an autonomous shuttle in mixed traffic use. Ed Kaiser/Postmedia We’ve heard it so often, we’ve become numb. Soon! Soon! Autonomous vehicles (AVs) will take over! No more human-driven vehicles, no more individually owned vehicles. We will all ride-share in a dial-a-bus-like municipal AV fleet. Soon! Guess what? Soon has become now! Right now, a 12-person fully automated van – no driver, no driver’s compartment – is scurrying up and down the town of Beaumont’s main thoroughfare, sharing the road with regular traffic. There’s plenty of leading-edge AVs out there – every major automaker has skin in this game. AV fleets are beginning to buzz around industrial sites, airports, golf courses, wherever there& ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: Edmonton's eyelash queen By GRAHAM HICKS, first published EDMONTON SUN, May 17, 2019

SugarlashPRO founder Courtney Buhler poses in Sugarlash's soon-to-open headquarters on Whyte Avenue. GRAHAM HICKS/EDMONTON SUNEdmonton By GRAHAM HICKS Name the Edmonton cosmetics company, that, in 10 years, has gone from a home-based business to a global eyelash company, with 35 staff and expected 2019 revenues of  $18 to $20 million? Stumped? Of course! But all will soon change. Courtney Buhler’s SugarlashPRO will be a local household name once the company unveils its storefront world headquarters, now under construction at Whyte Avenue and 108 Street, in the former BMO bank building. Courtney’s is a remarkable story of determination and perseverance, of sensing an opportunity, overcoming obstacles, taking on major financial risk … and winning. She started as a broke, 20-year-old single mom. Today she is only 30, with two more kids and a most supportive husband. Dustin Buhler formerly handled SugarlashPRO's logistics. Courtney and SugarlashPRO are proof positive that E ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: Explaining Don Iveson By GRAHAM HICKS, first published EDMONTON SUN, May 10, 2019

Mayor Don Iveson speaks with media at the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce's Mayor's State of the City Address luncheon at Edmonton Convention Centre in Edmonton, on Wednesday, May 8, 2019. Ian Kucerak / Postmedia By GRAHAM HICKS Mayor Don Iveson gave his sixth annual “State of the City” speech on Wednesday to the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce. As he moved into well-covered territory – high-tech, innovation, blah, blah, blah – my mind wandered. The next municipal election is October, 2021 –  2½ years away. If Iveson runs for a third time will anybody challenge him? I  doubt it. Mike Nickel, city council’s lone fiscal hawk, knows he can’t beat Iveson – heck, he couldn’t even win a UCP nomination in his provincial riding. Councillors Michael Walters and Sarah Hamilton have flirted with the idea. But neither would run against pal Don. As Iveson moved on  in a rather boring speech, I thought about his political p ... Read the rest of entry »
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