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Category: Hicks on Biz columns from The Edmonton Sun

Hicks on Biz columns from The Edmonton Sun

Hicks on Biz: Ice District delivered as promised By GRAHAM HICKS, first published EDMONTON SUN, April 20, 2018

By GRAHAM HICKS On May 6, 2010, The Katz Group/Oilers held an open house at the Art Gallery of Alberta, at which the Ice District vision for the downtown was unveiled. Much of it was scoffed at, indeed ridiculed. Pie-in-the-sky, over-ambitious, too big and grandiose for little ol’ Edmonton. That richie rich Oilers owner Daryl Katz was out to rob the taxpayer. Yes sir, he was going to stuff his face with taxpayers’ money. Well here we are, eight years later. Everything has been delivered as promised. Rogers Place is more attractive and has more amenities than was originally proposed. The JW Marriott hotel and condo tower has been topped off at 56 stories, the Stantec Tower continues to grow to its majestic 69 stories, to be Canada’s tallest office tower west of Toronto. The actual Ice District and Rogers Place Arena, once buildings are complete. The original Ice District and arena land was all parking lots. The power of address:  Most of the 264 condos abo ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: Many want us to think otherwise, but the world is a cleaner place By GRAHAM HICKS, first published April 5, 2018

Pipes are seen at the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain facility in Edmonton, Alta., Thursday, April 6, 2017. Alberta Premier Rachel Notley says a B.C. court decision on the Trans-Mountain pipeline is a definitive victory. The federal court of appeal on Friday dismissed the B.C. government's bid to appeal a National Energy Board ruling that allowed Kinder Morgan Canada to bypass local bylaws during construction.JONATHAN HAYWARD / THE CANADIAN PRESS By Graham Hicks With little government regulation, the USA’s overall greenhouse gas emissions have been dropping. The USA is now expected to meet its Paris greenhouse gas reduction commitments – despite having torn up that agreement last year. Why?  Market forces! Utility companies can make more money converting coal-burning electricity plants to natural gas. There’s so much natural gas, it’s so easy to produce, it’s cheaper to burn than coal and it burns far cleaner than coal. In the mid-2000s, 50% of American el ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: Sale of Edmonton company CCI Thermal a big deal By GRAHAM HICKS, first published EDMONTON SUN March 29, 2018

Harold Roozen is the founder of CCI Thermal Technologies. File photoLarry Wong / EDMONTON JOURNAL By Graham Hicks Historically, business in Edmonton is conducted with discretion, privacy and civility. Those qualities are in marked contrast to Calgary’s boisterous, extroverted big-money business sector – at least until the Great Humbling of 2015 and 2016. Edmontonians, no matter their wealth, don’t drive flashy cars. The most ostentatious vehicles on our roads are Range Rovers, Mercedes roadsters or Beemers. Other than Daryl Katz’s mega-mansion overlooking Hawrelak Park, fine homes in this town are inconspicuous – hidden on acreages or in cul-de-sacs, surrounded by trees. Showing off is just not part of the culture. It makes sense, therefore, that the sale of privately-owned, Edmonton-based CCI Thermal to American industrial-heating giant Thermon Heating Systems, for an eyebrow-lifting, all-cash $258 million Cdn, was barely publicized. But it is a BIG DEAL, ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: When it comes to transportation in Edmonton, stick to the tried, true and inexpensive By GRAHAM HICKS, first published EDMONTON SUN, March 23, 2018

Edmonton transit buses make their way along 104 Avenue. File photoDavid Bloom / Postmedia By GRAHAM HICKS Gondolas!  NO! Prototype Magnetic-Levitation LRT!  NOOOOO! Bombardier’s Advanced Rapid Transit (Vancouver’s SkyTrain)!   Maybe, but NOT NOW! BRT (Bus Rapid Transit)!  PROBABLY! Smart roads! Smaller vehicles! Cleaner vehicles! And, one day, driverless vehicles! YES !  But by then I will be mouldering in my low-density urban grave. Hasn’t Edmonton city council and its senior management learned anything from the dismal failure of our broken-down Cadillac waste management system, from the not-fully operational NAIT LRT line, from  bridges built years behind schedule, from the soon-to-be financial fiasco of Blatchford? Don’t wing it with unproven technology!!! Use reliable and cost-effective technologies … like, golly, highways and private vehicles. Like old-fashioned buses! As the public hearings on expanding ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: Edmonton’s broken-down Cadillac waste management system by GRAHAM HICKS, first published EDMONTON SUN March 16, 2018

A contract worker sorts paper at the Edmonton recycling facility.Ed Kaiser / Postmedia By Graham Hicks Rarely has a city felt so betrayed, so let down, by one of its own departments. City Auditor David Wiun’s recently released audit of the Waste Services Branch is one of the most damning City of Edmonton public reports ever released. The once world-famous City of Edmonton Waste Services Branch had been fudging its reports, its numbers were not to be believed, its management culture had become “independent” (i.e. gone rogue), equipment and facilities were (and are) falling apart …   Waste Services has hopelessly failed in its long-touted goal of diverting 90% of waste from landfill. The best the city had done was diverting 49.5% of residential garbage in 2013, and had since been getting worse, down to 35.7% in 2016. Most of our garbage continues to be hauled to a landfill site near Ryley, 80 kilometres away. Nobody knows how much – or where &nda ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: Alberta doesn't need wind farms by GRAHAM HICKS, first published EDMONTON SUN March 9, 2018

By GRAHAM HICKS I have been to a wind farm, watched the blades on 80-metre-tall wind turbines turn lazily in the late-February sun. In a very gentle 5.4 km/h wind, 16 megawatts (MW) of electricity were being generated — wind converted to electricity at each tower, fed through underground cables to a substation, then fed into the provincial power grid. In that lazy wind at Capital Power’s Halkirk Wind Farm about 30 kilometres east of Stettler, 83 towers each generated 230 kilowatts (kW) of power ‑ enough to perhaps power my neighbourhood at that very moment. Halkirk is impressive — the 83 wind turbines scattered across 60 square kilometres of working farmland are so quiet (at least in low winds), so grey, so clean against the blue sky — dotting the landscape around the village of Halkirk like ghostly sentinels. The technology and know-how are all imported. The global wind-farm company Vestas Wind Systems, headquartered in Denmark, manufactures, assembles, maintains and ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: Alberta is no longer viable By GRAHAM HICKS, first published EDMONTON SUN, March 2, 2018

As the federal and provincial governments make it more difficult for the resource industry to get things done, there's less incentive for those companies to develop infrastructure in this province.Ian Kucerak / Ian Kucerak/Postmedia I’m doing my best not to be ultra-cynical. But put yourself in the position of a major petrochemical/energy company CEO, reading the recently released report of the Alberta government-appointed Energy Diversification Advisory Committee. It is entitled, Diversification, Not Decline: Adapting to the new energy reality. “Really?” the CEO is saying to him or herself as he/she flips the pages. “Really?  The Alberta and Canadian governments have been pummelling my industry since 2015 when the Liberals came to power in Ottawa and the New Democrats in Alberta. “We (the energy sector) were flattened by the 50% drop in oil prices at the end of 2014.  And, ever since,  your governments have been kicking us while we& ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: Desperation has not yet set in for Alberta's finances - by GRAHAM HICKS, first published Edmonton Sun, February 23, 2018

This gorilla is not hiding in the closet. It’s rampaging through the whole house, in the kitchen, the living room, in every bathroom. Since 2008, for 10 years (with one exception), the Alberta government has spent more money than it has taken in. The situation has gone from bad to worse. From $1 billion in the red in 2008, to $6 to $8 billion per year earlier in this decade, to $10 billion-plus in the last two years. The accumulated deficit – the total outstanding provincial debt – is expected to hit $45 billion this year. That’s close to what the Alberta government will spend in the entire upcoming 2018-19 fiscal year! Quebec and Ontario have drowned in debt for decades, but, hey, we’re catching up. On a debt-per-capita, Alberta will be at Quebec’s level by 2023, Ontario’s by 2024. We used to have oil and gas “non-renewable resource” royalties flowing in – $10 billion a year. Then came the Great Oil Price Crash of 2014. The governmen ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: Edmonton's Cowan Graphics weathers the economic storm - by GRAHAM HICKS, first published Edmonton Sun, February 16, 2018

By Graham Hicks Growing to becoming a major player in your industry … isn’t for the faint of heart. As this series of Hicks on Biz columns have shown, inherent disadvantages in growing non-oil/gas Edmonton manufacturing companies to regional, national or international proportions are usually off-set by advantages. But there’s one factor nobody can control. It’s called recession.   Ever since Blaine MacMillan took over Cowan Graphics, started by his uncle in 1945, he planned on growing the graphics company, which manufactures all kinds of large-scale advertising images. The huge Lexus ad covering the Edmonton International Airport administration building is made by Cowan.   The giant Wayne Gretzky photo at Rogers Place – made by Cowan.  Canada Post’s branding images on mail boxes across the country – produced and installed by Cowan. By 2008, MacMillan had 100% ownership of Cowan, having bought out remaining family shareholders. “By ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: Edmonton's economy cuts a diverse path By GRAHAM HICKS, first published Edmonton Sun, February 9, 2018

My eyes have been opened as never before. Having visited four manufacturing businesses in Edmonton that operate independently of the carbon-based energy (i.e. oil, gas, coal) sector, I can now envision a pragmatic, optimistic economic future for Edmonton in a world using less carbon fuels. All four leaders interviewed – Richard Meunier of RAM Elevators & Lifts, Denis Taschuk of Radient Technologies, Joe Makowecki of Heritage Frozen Foods (Cheemo Perogies), Chris Labossiere of Yardstick Testing – say Edmonton is a pretty good place to do business. But there’s a crying need for an overall, coordinated economic diversification strategy on the part of all governments operating in Alberta. File all those business failure excuses –  distance from markets, alleged over-taxation, skill shortages, lack of capital, over-regulation, socialists in power – in that round file marked G.   Doing business out of Edmonton, these leaders say, is no better, no w ... Read the rest of entry »