Insights and Innovations

 

 
The theme for the May Leduc/Nisku Economic Development Breakfast was Insights and Innovations for Advanced Manufacturers and Exporters, which might seem to be a bit of a heavy topic over breakfast at 6:30 in the morning, but the guest speaker, Dr. Jayson Myers, managed to make it quite interesting and engaging. 
The morning began with sixteen year old, LCHS student Amanda Hammer leading everyone in a beautiful rendition of O' Canada. Amanda was the Gold Medal winner in the sixteen and under category at this year's Leduc Rotary Music Festival, and it was obvious to all who heard her exquisite voice, why she won. 
Then Leduc/Nisku EDA Executive Director Gail Scott stepped onto the podium to announce that the EDA had just received notice this month that they could trademark the phrase "Alberta's International Region". She stated this was a bit of a coup since Calgary had not wanted this area to lay claim to that phrase and had challenged the trademarking of it, but in the end our EDA had won the right to it. 
Gail then took a moment to allow the crowd to preview the EDA's new promotional video, and also introduce the newest member of the EDA team, a gentleman by the name of Richard Horncastle, who would be their new, full time, Business Development Manager. Richard recently moved to Leduc with his wife and young son, and he comes with six years of experience from Wetaskiwin's Joint Economic Development Initiative. 
At this point in the morning, Gail was very pleased to introduce the guest speaker, Dr. Jayson Myers. Jayson is the President and CEO of Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters, which is Canada's largest industry and trade association. He is also a well known economic commentator and has been recognized by the consulting firm Watson Wyatt as the most accurate economic forecaster in Canada. 
Jayson began his presentation by recalling his first trip to Alberta. Growing up in Ontario, he was one of the students chosen by his Geography teacher to travel across Canada by car one summer. He remembers viewing the Leduc #1 well site on August 12th of that year. He stated that the date has stuck in his memory because it was snowing at the time! He laughingly said that made quite an impression on him.
Jayson then began speaking in earnest by saying that he would like to take a few minutes talking about what NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair has been saying, and why he thinks he's so wrong. Jayson started by explaining the "lay of the land" and some of the risks involved today. He stated that it will be a "horrific situation" if Greece fails completely, and what we really need is an international solution to diversify world debt, but the best we seem able to do right now is muddle through with what we've got. 
He went on to say that what he sees happening right now is major Canadian companies holding off on making any big decisions until the path into the future is a little clearer. For the average person he is seeing mortgage debt increasing but feels we, as a country, are still in a reasonably good position, but could be in for a rough ride ahead. Jayson believes that it will be another couple of years until we are on a firm growth track. He stated "You don't create a good economy by spinning around other people's debt."
Jayson shared that according to statements made by Mulcair and Ontario's Premier Dalton McGuinty, they believe that our oil and gas industry is sucking manufacturers out of Ontario, which Jayson stated "Is simply not true." Over 200,000 jobs in Ontario rely directly on Alberta's oil and gas industry.
Jayson did admit that Canada was not bouncing back as quickly from the downturn as the U.S. was, due to the high value of the Canadian dollar, which can be attributed to the sales of our energy resources. However, he said that Canada is a high production cost country and that is not going to change any time soon. So Canadian manufacturing must learn how to compete in this market. 
In three months 30% of Ontario's manufacturing customers disappeared, almost all of which were U.S. based. Jayson said that this was what worried McGuinty and Mulcair. He asked, "How do we replace those customers?" Jayson answered himself by stating that China, India and Brazil offer new opportunities to build new markets in manufacturing sales due to oil and gas. Manufacturing sales rates are growing three times faster in Alberta than the rest of the country because of the oil and gas industry.
He said, "If any company today is trying to do sales the same way as five years ago they are in trouble. Everything is changing. There is a new type of industrial growth that is different than what has been seen before. There is a huge opportunity to build up our manufacturing and technology sector over the next ten years."
He used an an example the pipelines, mining projects and Hydro redevelopments that are currently being planned. There is a one hundred million dollar Hydro upgrading and mine project set to begin in Ontario, with half a trillion dollars of projects starting up over the next five years, and an expected 4-6 trillion dollars in spin-offs over the next ten years. Jayson jokingly asked the crowd, "Do you think we could do something with that money?"
He said that the biggest challenge is going to be labour. There is already a shortfall of over 100,000 workers for projects that are slated to happen over the next ten years. He stated that it would require leadership and partnership with our communities and government to take a look at our immigration and employment systems in order to be successful. In closing, Jayson said, "No one can do it on their own. If we could do this I would be very, very proud to prove McGuinty and Mulcair wrong.”.

 

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