HicksBiz Blog

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 »

Taste of Edmonton near flawless: Weekly Dish column originally published in Edmonton Sun July 24, 2012

By Graham Hicks ,Edmonton SunFIRST POSTED: WEDNESDAY, JULY 25, 2012 12:00 AM MDT | UPDATED: TUESDAY, JULY 24, 2012 09:21 AM MDT It usually takes a while to get things perfect. But did you have to wait until the very end, Giuseppe Albi?Giuseppe is the long-time producer of A Taste of Edmonton. The event started under his watch as general manager of the not-for-profit Events Edmonton.After the 2012 Taste of Edmonton, Giuseppe is retiring. He'll focus on his other career, as a renowned abstract painter.This Taste of Edmonton is his best.Taste of Edmonton is the city's premier food fest. Forty-two restaurants booths line Churchill Square and are open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. every day until Saturday. Each sells two food items, usually at $4 to $5 each.Taste of Edmonton is now near-flawless. The food choices are outstanding, the balance between yummy grease-o-rama and healthier dishes has been found. There's also balance in the variety of restaurant booths. All tastes are fulfilled.The lay-out creates festivity. ... Read the rest of entry »

How to keep the Edmonton Indy alive: Hicks on Biz column originally published Edmonton Sun, July 28, 2012

The Edmonton Indy just had its eighth birthday.That’s right. Though it’s been a bumpy road, the race has never not been held since Greg Macdonald (now back in the outdoor advertising business) persuaded Champ Car to put Edmonton back on the car-racing map in 2005.Through near-bankruptcies, forced changes in ownership, city subsidies and crisis after crisis, this race has never missed a beat.Click here to check out our Indy section for a wrap of all the action.There was a bit of tizzy after last week’s race, when race producer/owner Francoise Dumontier of Octane Motorsports suggested Octane needed more business support and better attendance before it would consider extending its agreement with IndyCar and the city (as landlord) beyond 2013.While there are challenges and a few potholes to be filled, there’s no reason for doom and gloom.In fact, the Edmonton Indy’s odds of not only surviving but prospering into the long-term are better than ever.The IndyCar league doesn’t release race attendance numbers. Octane ... Read the rest of entry »

At Piccolino's, every customer is a friend: Weekly Dish column originally published in Edmonton Sun, July 18, 2012

Piccolino Bistro9112 142 St. 780 443 2110 Food: 4 of 5 starsAmbience: 4 of 5 starsService: 4 of 5 starsDinner for two (without beverages): Basic, $40; fully loaded, $60 Why Italians are so much better at this than anybody else, I do not know.But it's the Italians in this town — Canadians of Italian heritage 1/3 who understand the art of hospitality.After a fine, tummy-filling dinner at Piccolino, owner (with his dad Joe) Lino Rago sits down to catch up on the last few years.He's not really sitting down, he's like a Jack-In-The-Box.Every few minutes, Lino jumps up to greet every customer coming through the door like a long-lost cousin, to give an "arrivederci" or "ciao" and a hug to departing favourite customers. Everybody is a favourite.Piccolino is an immensely popular, small (80 seats) Italian restaurant in the inner west end.There's nothing in its appearance to suggest something special. It looks like your basic eatery in a tree-lined, upper-scale neighbourhood's strip mall, south of Stony ... Read the rest of entry »

Night of the Living Dead - Klondike Days returns to haunt Edmonton

July 30, 2012: So after a well-publicized vote on what to call Edmonton's annual summer fair - currently under the generic Capital EX- the producer of said event  Northlands has announced the winner. K-Days! K-Days was the abbreviation, the slang-term, for the fair's long-standing name of Klondike Days. The original idea for the Klondike Days theme stemmed was Edmonton's peripheral involvement in the Klondike Gold Rush, as a staging area for one of the toughest ways to get to the Klondike gold rush up north. It came complete with barbershop quartets, men dressed in turn-of-the-century stifling hot vests and suits, ladies in the full Victorian style regalia of dresses. All of which the city was completely bored with by the mid-80s, especially when we really didn't have much historical claim to calling ourselves a Klondike gold rush town. So here's the can of worms that'll be opened with the decision to call Capital EX K-Days. What does K-Days stand for, the visitor will ask. Wel ... Read the rest of entry »

Power struggle - why the black-outs: Hicks on Biz in the Edmonton Sun, July 14, 2012

Blame it on the lack of wind, or blame it on the inherent weakness of Alberta’s deregulated power system.Blaming Monday’s rolling power black-outs, on the hottest day of the year, on the lack of wind is a bit of fun.But the deeper reality is the black-outs are the result of an entire electrical system that needs fixing.The wind argument first.If Alberta’s electricity producers were not so dependent on wind power, there’d have been no need for the rolling blackouts.Seven per cent of Alberta’s power-producing capacity comes from wind-powered turbines. We’re a “leader” in wind power, primarily because of the wind corridors of Southern Alberta. Lethbridge isn’t called the Windy City for nothing.But on Monday, the great weakness of wind power was exposed.No wind.The Alberta Electrical System Operator (AESO), the folks who are supposed to ensure electricity is flowing nice and evenly all over the province, want to have 7% more power available than is being consumed, especially during peak periods.With no wind, most ... Read the rest of entry »

A food lesson from Spain: Weekly Dish column in Edmonton Sun, July 10, 2012

Since early June, Maria and I have been on a steady diet of fresh seafood, fresh bread and Spanish omelettes known as tortillas. Not just fresh, but fresh, fresh. Food cooked in dozens of small bar-café kitchens across northern Spain, almost always by theA proprietor. No Starbucks, no Timmy’s, no McDonald’s.For our 25th wedding anniversary project, we walked the “Camino de Santiago” or “Way of St. James,” an 800-kilometre trail starting on the French side of the Pyrenees Mountains separating France from Spain.You just keep walking westward, across mountains, hills, plains as flat as Saskatchewan, vineyards, pastures, chestnut groves. Keep walking, keep walking, and one day (five weeks if you do the whole thing – we did about half ) you end up at Compostela de Santiago in the far north-west corner of Spain.Walking the Camino de Santiago is a story unto itself ‑ the hostels, the friendships, the spirit and, on a practical level, feet management. But this is a story about re-discovering the lost art of fresh foo ... Read the rest of entry »

A downtown Remedy: Weekly Dish review of Remedy Cafe, Edmonton Sun June 11, 2012

Remedy Café licensed chai bar 10279 Jasper Avenue ( 780 757 7720 )8631 109 Street ( 780 433 3096 )Remedycafe.caMorning to midnight, seven days a week Food: 3.5 of 5 starsAmbience: 4.5 of 5 starsService: 4.5 of 5 starsDinner for two: $30 with plenty to take home In a unique eatery, it’s the personality who shapes the restaurant, rarely the other way around.An upbeat, gracious owner will be reflected in the serving staff, in the décor, in the ease with which hospitality is extended without thought of immediate return.The Remedy Café, at Jasper and 103 Street, is all about owner Sohail “Zee” Zaidi’s sense of community.And that is why Remedy, in just four months, has become a cornerstone of the downtown renaissance.It’s a meeting spot, a hangout, a place of harmony.And it’s extraordinarily different. I haven’t seen anything quite like Remedy as a combination chai (South Asian tea) shop, a simple Canadian-South Asian fusion restaurant, and a morning to midnight café with a full range of beers, wines, etc. for the ... Read the rest of entry »

Tech industry third most valuable in Alberta: Hicks on Biz column in Edmonton Sun June 9, 2012

It’s the giant nobody knows about.The gorilla in Edmonton’s garage, our invisible backbone.ICT – standing for “Information Computing Technology” has now, its advocates suggest, passed forestry as the third largest industry (by sales) in Alberta, after energy and agriculture.According to the industry association, 5,500 ICT companies in Alberta in 2010 produced $10 billion in revenues.Of those 5,500, the Alberta ICT Industry Association outgoing chair Tom Ogaranko suggests 33% to 40% are in Edmonton and region.Information – solid, reliable data, mountains of it, with the computing tools to properly analyse it – is the competitive edge of the 21st century business world. He who has the most computing power and the best analytics wins.Yet this industry is hard to find. There’s no ICT Tower, no ICT industrial zone.Geeks in front of computers are everywhere, but nowhere.Some of the biggest companies have the tiniest south side offices. Their people work as contracted “systems integrators” alongside provincial gover ... Read the rest of entry »

Lazia is affordable quality: Weekly Dish column published in Edmonton Sun June 6, 2012

Lazia10200 102 Ave. (Edmonton City Centre West) 780 990 0188 Lazia.caLunch and dinner, 7 days a week Food: 3.75 of 5 starsAmbience: 3 of 5 starsService: 3.5 of 5 stars Dinner for two: Basic, $30; loaded, $50 It’s no wonder that Lazia – in the downtown Edmonton City Centre Mall, across from the YMCA – is a busy place.It’s clean, it’s attractive, it’s fast if time is of the essence.And for the food quality and attention to detail, Lazia is remarkably inexpensive.If something on the 60-item menu (excluding desserts) does not call out to you, then you must be the pickiest eater alive.Lazia’s menu has a split personality. One face is Canadian cuisine, the other Canadianized Asian.The “small plates” are primarily Asian and quite delicious. But unlike most Vietnamese or Thai restaurants, presentation is a priority. The five fat gyoza (Japanese dumplings), for instance, are presented on pressed seaweed for visual effect with a line of sweet chili for decoration and taste, and a light soy dipping sauce.On the Lazia me ... Read the rest of entry »