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Category: Hicks on Biz columns from The Edmonton Sun

Hicks on Biz columns from The Edmonton Sun

Future prosperity depends on regional government: Hicks on Biz column originally published in the Edmonton Sun, Sat. Oct. 27, 2012

I recently dined with a senior City of Edmonton manager, part of the leadership group around City Manager Simon Farbrother that’s getting a great deal done.We talked about global energy/petro-chemical companies, how decisions are made about where multi-billion dollar plants will be built.“We’re part of the Pacific rim,” our manager said. “The guy making that decision is based in Shanghai or Beijing. He’s deciding if that plant should be built in China, somewhere else in Asia, Canada, the USA or Mexico. His only interest is the well-being of the company he works for.“He has hundreds of options – countries and states and cities are all offering economic incentives.“If we (Greater Edmonton) want to compete, we have to have the complete package – land fully serviced and ready to go, feedstock, infrastructure, labour, financing, tax incentives. In fact, we have to offer more. Their future consumers are all over there, not here.“How do we compete,” he said, pointing his fork at my nose, “ when we don’t have a singl ... Read the rest of entry »

How Edmontonians invest their money: Hicks on Biz column originally published in Edmonton Sun, Sat. Oct. 20, 2012

Do Edmontonian invest, and if so, what do we invest in?I approached two of the city’s better-known financial advisors, CHED and Global Edmonton analyst Angus Watt of National Bank Financial and Ron Hiebert of Scotia-McLeod, host of CFCW’s weekly Making Money show, to ask these simple questions.(As always, think of “Edmontonians” as shorthand for Edmonton Sun readers, usually living in Alberta between Red Deer and Fort McMurray.)Right off the bat, we’re talking about a minority of you.About 70% of adult Albertans still live paycheque to paycheque, not saving enough to invest in anything besides your house. But 70% of you actually own a home, and, hopefully, are increasing your equity with every mortgage payment.But the time comes when the 30% have a tiny bit left over, after groceries, car and housing costs, the son’s hockey equipment and one holiday a year, to actually start making investments.Usually it’s in tax-deferred RRSPs (Registered Retirement Savings Plans — you don’t pay income tax until you make wit ... Read the rest of entry »

Parkallen Restaurant a Lebanese delight: Weekly Dish, Edmonton Sun, Oct. 3, 2012

Parkallen Restaurant 7018 109 St. 780-436-8080 www.parkallen.comFood: 4 of 5 starsAmbience: 4 of 5 starsService: 4.5 of 5 starsDinner for two (without beverages): Basic, $25; fully loaded, $100If you have a favourite restaurant, dollars to doughnuts you have dishes you return to, time after time.You may not be sure why, but there's just something about how that particular chef prepares that particular dish. It keeps calling your name.I have a problem with the Parkallen Restaurant. It's not just one or two dishes. It's five, six, seven ...It's the quality of the kitchen, for 28 years presided over by Habib and Nahia Rustom, and now their son Joseph Rustom.There are no shortcuts. Everything is from scratch, or custom-made locally to Rustom specifications.To try their "mezza" combinations (a tapas-style collection of up to 12 mini-entrees) is to feast your way through Lebanese cuisine, to be taking mental notes on which dish you will order as a full entr e the next time around.Why do I love thee, ... Read the rest of entry »

Alberta's economy IS diversifying: Hicks on Biz column originally published in the Edmonton Sun, Sept. 15, 2012

The mantra is repeated every day, everywhere.Alberta must cease being a one-trick pony dependent on the oil and gas industry, government mandarins murmur.Diversify, diversify, successive political party leaders shout out to their constituents.A funny thing has happened on the way to the Coliseum.Led by market forces, out-of-the-box thinking and judicious quasi-government priming, hundreds of new businesses are creating new wealth that will pay the taxes that will one day get our new arena/concert hall built.Here are four northern Alberta companies I have come across, outside the oil patch so creative, so promising, they do nothing but bode well for the future, for your kids' future careers.CLYW (formerly Caribou Lodge Yo Yo Works) (www.cariboublog.com)Edmonton is home to one of the world's top "return top" manufacturers. (The word "yo yo" is trademarked in Canada. "Yo-yoer" or "yo-yoing" is not.)Chris Mikulin's return tops are considered the Ferraris or Lamborghinis of the international yo-yoing world. They s ... Read the rest of entry »

Don't believe the economic spin!: Hicks on Biz originally published in Edmonton Sun, Sept. 8, 2012

There we went again.Hiring those Bachelorettes, or whatever they were, for $20,000 to hang here in Edmonton for a couple of days and gush positive in Tweets and Facebook postings and LinkedIns and Flickrs, created $200,000 in “earned media value.”So we are told by spin doctors with perfectly straight faces.Actually it was revised on Wednesday, to 32 million social media “hits” worth $550,000!Economic development/tourism folks kill their credibility by placing such absurd value on something that’s impossible to evaluate.The theory is these happy hired guns, waxing poetic about Edmonton via social media, will lead to “heightened awareness” of our mid-sized Canadian prairie city best known for Wayne Gretzky and West Edmonton Mall.“Heightened awareness,” the argument goes, indirectly leads to more visitors, spending more money. And, even more theoretical, “heightened awareness” make Edmonton more attractive when city-based employers are competing for specialized employees.The silliness of placing a dollar value o ... Read the rest of entry »

Picking the right mobile carrier can save customers hassle and big bucks: Graham Hicks' Hicks on Biz column, originally published in Edmonton Sun Sept. 1, 2012

I have a smartphone made by a once-mighty cellphone manufacturer, on a major Canadian mobility carrier’s three-year contract.A year-and-a-half ago, the phone was considered at the top of the smartphone pile.Today, I’m counting the months to the end of the contract. Not because of the carrier, but because this phone has been overtaken by superior competing mobile phone manufacturers. It takes forever to access the Internet, is slow to load websites, and too often the words aren’t formatted to fit my device’s screen.Welcome to the world of lightning change, called cellphones.How do you decide what carrier/network to use, what phone to buy, when things change so quickly?I’m hoping this Hicks on Biz – consumer’s edition – will help you make an informed choice.If I was starting over today, here are some of the things I’d look into. The network I want a carrier that has coverage right across Canada, no matter where I am. The most extensive networks belong to the Big Three – TELUS, Bell and Rogers. Generally speakin ... Read the rest of entry »

Alberta over a barrel? Hicks on Biz, originally published in Edmonton Sun, Aug. 25, 2012

By Graham HicksHopefully this is a Chicken Little column, harking back to that little piece of poultry, who, certain the world was coming to an end, ran around crying, “The sky is falling, the sky is falling!”Chicken Little was wrong, of course.But something doesn’t feel right about the soothing words we are hearing from Alberta’s economic forecasters, that good times will roll along in Alberta for the foreseeable future, i.e. at least for another 12 months.It is, surprise, surprise, all about the price of oil.About 2.5 million barrels a day are sucked out of Alberta ground and exported at a price ranging between $70 to $100 a barrel, creating $200 to $300 million in new wealth every day.No other industry employs as many people, no other industry pays half as well, no other industry earns as much revenue for government, no other industry has anywhere near oil’s impact on our standard of living.Our energy wealth continues to shower goodness upon us, despite the fact the once-mighty natural gas industry is on i ... Read the rest of entry »

Edmonton doesn't exist?! Hicks on Biz, originally published Edmonton Sun, August 17, 2012

By Graham HicksIt’s an annual insult.Every year around this time, the Economist Intelligence Unit’s releases its report on the world’s most livable cities with much fanfare. The Economist is a leading international news and business magazine.Every year, Calgary, Vancouver and Toronto make it in the Top 10. This year, Montreal was the only other Canadian city included, coming in at 16th.No Edmonton.A few years back, tired of this slight, I asked the Edmonton Economic Development Corporation why we didn’t rate, even though Edmonton and Calgary come out neck-and-neck in any survey of Canada’s livable cities.The answer, finally dug out of the Economist people, was that since Calgary and Edmonton were in such close proximity, only one needed to be scrutinized, and it was going to be Calgary.We were not even considered for the list! In the eyes of the authors of this prestigious survey, Edmonton does not exist.There’s an argument for not worrying about lack of recognition – why fret over how others see us, when we ... Read the rest of entry »

Defending fossil fuels from Toronto attack: Hicks on Biz originally published Edmonton Sun, Aug. 11, 2012

By Graham HicksMy cousin’s husband looked as me as if I was just what he thought I was — an right-wing, oil-snortin’ Alberta redneck.“Don’t tell me about how good fossil fuels are,” growled the Torontonian. “I grew up breathing (fossil-fuel) pollution that drifted over from Detroit and Chicago. I’m done with that stuff.”I wouldn’t worry if said husband had no influence.But he’s a top Canadian architect who designs energy-efficient office towers … and he didn’t want to even hear about the greening of fossil fuels!This deep, stubborn, near-hatred of the cheapest, most efficient and abundant energy source in the world is irrational, but is deeply engrained in the mindset of the chattering classes.Yet the exact opposite is true.Thanks to the power of new technology, Alberta’s hydro-carbon energy industry is cleaning up its act at a breath-taking pace.Energy produced from the burning of oil and natural gas is fast becoming environmentally competitive, at a much cheaper cost, with alternative energy sources like so ... Read the rest of entry »

Oil's not well in Alberta: Hicks on Biz originally published in Edmonton Sun Aug. 4, 2012

We’ve been dangerously smug.Our American friends are buried in debt, our European allies are gasping for financial air.Cash-rich China, still buying up our oil industry without blinking an eye, is facing an economic slowdown.Our cousins down east are finding jobs harder and harder to come by.But we Albertans have laughed off economic hardship.We have been immune to the world-wide economic misery of the past four years.Thanks to our beautiful, sticky, bullet-proof oil.Oil pouring out of the oilsands, oil miraculously flowing from once-dry oil wells thanks to new technology.While everything else seemed to fall in value these past few years, oil held up.Oil, refined into gasoline and diesel, remained the world's energy of choice for transportation.Oil has stayed on either side of $100 a barrel for several years now.Brace yourselves.The party, muted as it is, may soon be over.Oil has dropped recently from that $100 benchmark down to its latest price of $88, after falling under $80 at the end of June.Hundreds of e ... Read the rest of entry »