HicksBiz Blog

Edmonton's downtown: It's growin' - Hicks on Biz, originally published Edmonton Sun, Dec. 22, 2012

Last week, the Katz Group reviewed its downtown development vision around the new, still-stalled, downtown arena proposal for city council.To recap: Two office towers, two condo towers, a new hotel and up so six "low-rise" residential and commercial development surrounding the arena in a well-planned urban precinct.But the same darned question ran through everybody's mind, at least anybody with any long-term connection to Edmonton's downtown.Sounds great, but what about demand?Since the great downtown office building boom of 1976 to 1983 (TD Tower, Oxford Tower, Manulife Place, Bell Tower, Canadian Western Bank Place, Scotia Place, Sun Life and the Enbridge Tower), Edmonton had/has been awash in office space.Only three office towers have been built since 1983. Two of them - Canada Place and Commerce Place - were more about government stimulus than supply and demand.The EPCOR "Tower of Power" opened in 2011. It's the first "free-market" new office tower in almost 30 years.There hasn't been a major new hotel bu ... Read the rest of entry »

From sublime to perplexing - Weekly Dish, originally published Edmonton Sun Dec. 19, 2012

Café de Ville10137-124 St.780 488 9188 www.cafedeville.comFood: 3.5 of 5 starsAmbience: 4 of 5 starsService: 3 of 5 starsDinner for two (without beverages): Basic, $65; fully loaded, $110Something magical is in the air.Café de Ville, on a snowy evening as Christmas approaches, is cozy and snug.The room emanates warmth and charm. It hearkens back to the origins of the historic Glenora Bed & Breakfast Inn in which it’s housed, built as the Buena Vista Apartments in 1912.The chairs are soft and upholstered, the cute little bar most inviting. An old radiator is on hand for decoration and there’s a Christmas tree in a nook.Café de Ville has a reputation for good, if pricey, food.There was, however, something impersonal. Despite a friendly waitress, Café de Ville was not particularly welcoming, even a tad indifferent, to its customers.Not that it mattered. The restaurant was full by 6:30 p.m. on a Friday.The food was perplexing. Of our four dishes, two were sublime, one was marred by too much salt, and one was ... Read the rest of entry »

Where's the Corporate Giving? Hicks on Biz originally published Edmonton Sun, Dec. 15, 2012

“Are there no prisons? Are there no poor houses?”So were uttered some of the most prophetic words ever written in English.The great Charles Dickens put them into the mouth of his merciless capitalist character Ebenezer Scrooge in a story that, 170 years later, still rings as true as the day Dickens put pen to paper.I’m thinking about Scrooge now, as Christmas approaches.Not only because of the Citadel Theatre’s stellar 13th annual production of A Christmas Carol, but because Scrooge’s attitude to charity (before being put to rights by the ghostly good guys) has become subtly ingrained in 21st century business ethics.For all its talk, big business in Canada doesn’t seem that committed to giving back to the communities from whence their profits flow.Imagine Canada is a credible non-profit organization that reports on, and advocates for, increased corporate philanthropy.Imagine Canada suggests Canada’s companies should give 1% of their pre-tax profits to charity … a penny deducted from every dividend dollar.And ... Read the rest of entry »

Col. Mustard's: An old friend that never lets you down: Weekly Dish originally published Edmonton Sun, Dec. 12, 2012

Col. Mustard’s Canteen 10802-124 St. 780 448 1590 www.colmustards.caFood: 4 of 5 starsAmbience: 3.5 of 5 starsService: 3 of 5 starsDinner for two (without beverages): Basic, $35; fully loaded, $65Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver, the other is gold.Over on 124 Street, marvellous things are happening.The Duchess Bakery has attained celebrity status, The Makk has just opened, with the new Canteen restaurant hot on its heels.With dozens upon dozens of interesting shops, galleries, restaurants, espresso bars and yoga studios, 124 Street is evolving along with the downtown 104th Street into the city’s second and third destination neighbourhoods after Old Strathcona.Which is all terribly exciting.But amidst all the excitement, don’t forget your old friends — the ones who never let you down, who are always there when you need them, who wait patiently as you are bedazzled by dashing, new acquaintances.Col. Mustard’s Canteen is now 16 years old. Brad Pipella has supervised the kitchen a ... Read the rest of entry »

The Citadel's Christmas Carol as magical as ever: Graham Hicks' review, Dec. 10, 2012

A Christmas Carol - through Dec. 23, 2012 Citadel Theatre, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada As adapted by Tom Wood, Directed by Bob Baker and Geoffrey Brumuk Ticket information at Citadel Theatre Nothing is quite such a Christmas classic as Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. And in Edmonton, nothing has become more of a Christmas classic than Tom Wood’s stage adaptation of A Christmas Carol for the Citadel Theatre. A Christmas Carol premiered 13 years ago. The initial year was an herculean effort that darned near killed everybody. the huge production was mounted in six short weeks, as technically complicated and as artistically vast as theatre can get and all done for the first time. No matter. A Christmas Carol was an artistic and box-office triumph from opening night on. A Christmas Carol was designed to be an annual event – it had to run for a few years if only to recover its production costs – but nobody expected it’d be so popular as to continue, non-stop, for 13 Christmas ... Read the rest of entry »

Smart manufacturing, as typified by Drader, is alive and well in Greater Edmonton: Hicks on Biz column, Edmonton Sun, Dec. 8, 2012

Blanket statements about doing business in Alberta are dangerous things.Conventional wisdom says manufacturing, outside the oil patch, is impossible.We can’t compete against the Chinese. We can’t compete against the oil patch for wages. We can’t compete in transportation. And our input costs are too high.The business folks who don’t actually make real stuff have accepted these “truths” without critical examination.There’s a minor problem. Those truths are not true.Plastic products manufacturer Drader Manufacturing Industries Ltd, 55 years old, is not only going strong, but has expanded into Ontario. Most of Drader’s customers are not oil patch-related.Drader is hardly alone. According to Stats Canada figures passed on by EEDC, an astounding 1,791 manufacturers with less than 100 employees have plants in Greater Edmonton. How many serve customers outside the oil patch is not broken down.Drader caught my attention at the ASTech Awards in November, honouring scientific achievement in Alberta.It was the only indu ... Read the rest of entry »

Wild Tangerine is one-of-a-kind: Weekly Dish restaurant review from Edmonton Sun, Dec. 5, 2012

Wild Tangerine  10383 112 St.             780 429-3131       Wildtangerine.com Food: 4 of 5 stars Ambience: 3.5 of 5 stars Service: 3.5 of 5 stars Dinner for two (without beverages): Basic, $40; fully loaded, $100 Where does it come from? In what crazy brain space does Wild Tangerine chef and partner Judy Wu mix ‘n’ match like no other chef in Edmonton? She has dreamed up, and perfected, one-of-a-kind dishes that are signature staples on the Wild Tangerine menu: Octopus salad with spicy tangerine vinaigrette, marsala-masala spiced lamb chops, bison short ribs slow-cooked in salted rice wine. Judy shows no outward signs of culinary sophistication. Style is her brother and restaurant co-owner Wilson Wu’s department. He’s the talker. Quiet Judy stays in the Wild Tangerine kitchen, a plain black scarf always round her head, apron round her waist, cooking and cooking and cooking. Her E ... Read the rest of entry »

Learning to love Alberta's pipelines: Hicks on Biz originally published in Edmonton Sun, Dec. 1, 2012

Former premier Ed Stelmach used to call it 'the invisible industry." Even excluding urban water/sewer lines and residential gas lines, we have more pipelines running through the extended Greater Edmonton neighbourhood than just about anywhere else in the world. Maps attempting to illustrate all of central and northern Alberta energy pipelines are just about useless. If the colour blue is used to show all the pipelines, that map would be near solid blue from Red Deer to Fort McMurray. All of Alberta – excluding urban services – has about 400,000 kilometres worth of pipeline. Collector lines are everywhere in conventional oil/gas producing areas; from wells to mini-hubs, mini-hubs to bigger hubs, to major pipes heading to rural primary processing plants, to even bigger pipes transporting crude oil or natural gas into local refineries, or to the super-highway pipelines that send raw or processed hydrocarbons out of province. Thanks to the oilsands northeast of Edmonton, and oil an ... Read the rest of entry »

Vicky's Bistro | Wine Bar better than ever: Weekly Dish review originally published in Edmonton Sun, Nov. 28, 2012

Vicky’s Bistro | Wine Bar  Strathcona County Hall 100, 501 Festival Avenue Sherwood Park             780 417 1750       Vickys.ca Food: 4 of 5 stars Ambience: 3.5 of 5 stars Service: 2.5 of 5 stars Dinner for two (without beverages): Basic, $50; fully loaded, $100 The Weekly Dish has witnessed the fading of too many restaurants due to complacency. A restaurateur works his or her proverbial buns off for 10 years to build a good reputation. Then he or she decides the establishment can run itself, and starts spending more time on the golf course than in the dining room. In no time at all, quality slips, the reputation takes a hit and the eatery is a has-been. So three cheers for Vicky’s. After some 30 years it has gone the opposite way. Vicky’s changed location in Sherwood Park, and in the process has been invigorated and re-invented. The “old” Vicky’s w ... Read the rest of entry »

AIMCo: A fabulous Edmonton Success Story: HIcks on Biz, originally published in Edmonton Sun, Nov. 24, 2012

AIMCo is a fabulous Edmonton business success story. We’re not talking about its rate of return on $70 billion worth of assets - a healthy 7.9% return that assures provincial and municipal employees their pensions are secure. We’re talking about what AIMCo has done, in four short years, to create new wealth in Edmonton. Rewind to 2008, when the Ralph Klein government, spurred by indomitable cabinet minister Shirley McClellan, gathered up its piggy-banks – its pension funds, the Alberta Sustainability Fund, the Alberta Heritage Savings Trust Fund and others – to create one arm’s length investment management firm. AIMCo, the Alberta Investment Management Corporation, is a crown corporation with its own board of governors and only one mandate: That it make money. There is no directive that AIMCo must invest (or not invest) in Alberta. In fact when AIMCo did make a multi-million dollar investment in Calgary-based Precision Drilling, there was momentary uproar ... until ... Read the rest of entry »