‘We’re ready for them:’ Texans see opportunity in western Canadian malaise

Realtor Robert Graham is delivering tens of thousands of brochures to British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan

Cars travel along a highway with the skyline of downtown Houston in the background on May 20, 2010. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Houston Chronicle, Michael Paulsen)

Cars travel along a highway with the skyline of downtown Houston in the background on May 20, 2010. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Houston Chronicle, Michael Paulsen)

The brochure’s cover has the Texas flag as a backdrop and shows an arrow pointing from Alberta to the Lone Star State.

“Arrowstar Realty invites you to relocate to Texas,” reads the mailer sent to businesses across Western Canada recently. “Join the 100s of companies that have already made the move!”

Inside is a letter — beginning “Dear Canadian Neighbour” — boasting of Montgomery County’s “BOOMING” economy, tax incentives and ranch-style properties. It offers to link prospective clients with banks, accountants and lawyers to ease their move.

Realtor Robert Graham says 15,000 brochures have been delivered in British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan so far. Another 50,000 are coming.

He says Arrowstar has helped about 100 western Canadian companies move north of Houston in the last decade, and 40 of them were in the last year and a half.

The majority of newcomers have been Canadian oil and gas drillers, a sector that has hit a rough patch in recent years.

“I definitely want Canada to pick back up. I would love for that more than anything,” says Graham.

But for now, he says, a lot of Canadian businesses need help to keep going.

“We’ve got doors open and we’re ready for them.”

READ MORE: Trudeau promises added incentives for first-time home buyers in Greater Victoria

Krisjan Jones, operations manager at livestock feed supplement maker Canadian Bio-Systems, says Lubbock’s economic development agency recently made an enticing pitch to move his business to the west Texas city.

It was offering land at no cost with utilities and rail access.

“So essentially you get a blank canvas for free,” says Jones, who adds he’s waiting on the outcome of the Oct. 21 federal election before pulling the trigger. He cites the federal carbon tax as a major issue for him.

Clogged railways that make it difficult to get international shipments out on time are another big knock against Canada, he says.

John Osborne with the Lubbock Economic Development Alliance says pitches are centred more on the long-term business case than politics or potential perks. When benefits are discussed, it’s more of a problem-solving exercise.

“We look at it as ‘What’s stopping you from saying yes to coming to Lubbock right now?’”

That could mean free land, sewer and water hookups or road paving.

Osborne says his group has been doing Canadian outreach for about a decade, but it’s gone from sporadic to regular in recent years. Most trips are to Calgary and Toronto and have been with companies in oil and gas, manufacturing and agriculture.

Precision Drilling CEO Kevin Neveu moved to Houston from Calgary three years ago with the rest of the company’s management team. It has about 250 employees in each city now.

Neveu says 2017 was the first year Canada made up less than half of Precision’s activity and this year it’s at 30 per cent.

Alberta’s oil curtailments, trouble building new pipelines and cooling investor sentiment have depressed the Canadian industry, he says.

“It’s those three factors that are really starving our customers for capital, which means they’re not reinvesting in drilling, which means that our business here is just really slow — brutally slow.”

READ MORE: Developer offers free Tesla 3 with purchase of South Surrey townhome

Mark Scholz, head of the Canadian Association of Oilwell Drilling Contractors, says every member he’s spoken to has at least seriously considered moving people or equipment out of Canada. The association represents more than 100 companies that drill or service oil and gas wells.

He says moves from Alberta’s new United Conservative government to lessen the regulatory and tax burden are helping with competitiveness, but the southbound exodus is a wake-up call.

“The Americans are playing a very strategic game and quite frankly I think they’re winning at that.”

Lauren Krugel, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

File photo
Alberta’s central zone has 670 active cases

301 new cases identified Sunday

Alberta has 1,910 active cases of COVID-19 as of Wednesday. Red Deer is reporting five active cases, with 108 recovered. (File photo)
Red Deer reports 25th COVID-19 death

415 new cases identified provincially Saturday

Alberta Health reported two new COVID-19 deaths in Red Deer Friday. (Image courtesy CDC)
Two more deaths linked to Olymel outbreak in Red Deer

Province reported 356 additional COVID-19 cases Friday

Black Press file photo
Wetaskiwin RCMP execute search warrant; illegal drugs seized

Two Wetaskiwin residents have been charged with possession and trafficking of Methamphetamine.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney speaks during a news conference in Edmonton on Feb. 24, 2020. It’s budget day in the province, and Kenney’s United Conservative government is promising more help in the fight against COVID, but more red ink on the bottom line. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta’s budget promises more help for COVID-19 with a hard deficit

Annual spending on debt interest is closing in on $3 billion

People line up outside a vaccine clinic as seniors wait to get the COVID-19 vaccine in Edmonton Alta, on Friday February 26, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta Health Services head sorry for glitches in vaccine booking system for seniors

AHS president said technical issues have been fixed and a virtual waiting room is in place

Vandalism is shown on Alberta NDP MLA Janis Irwin’s constituency office in Edmonton in this handout photo on Saturday, February 27, 2021. Alberta Premier Jason Kenney quickly condemned vandalism at an Opposition legislature member Janis Irwin’s Edmonton office after the MLA posted pictures showing her front window spray-painted with the words “Antifa Liar.” THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Janis Irwin *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Alberta Premier slams vandalism after slur painted on MLA’s office window

Edmonton MLA Janis Irwin posted pictures showing the front window spray-painted with the words ‘Antifa Liar’

A helicopter flies past a mountain near McBride, B.C., on Saturday January 30, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Avalanche warning for backcountry users in North and South Rockies

Avalanche Canada is urging backcountry users to always check their regional avalanche forecasts

Supporters pray outside court in Stony Plain, Alta., on Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021, as a trial date was set for Pastor James Coates of GraceLife Church. He is charged with holding Sunday services in violation of Alberta’s COVID-19 rules and with breaking conditions of his bail release. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Trial date for jailed Alberta pastor charged with breaking COVID-19 health orders

The court says it will reconvene with lawyers on March 5 for a case management plan by teleconference

A pharmacist prepares a COVID-19 vaccine at Village Green Retirement Campus in Federal Way on Jan. 26. (Olivia Sullivan/Sound Publishing)
Canada approves use of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine

The country joins more than a dozen others in giving the shot the green light

Sylvan Lake's Winter Village lured many visitors to the town this winter. The town has launched a new contest to attract a new business.
(Black Press file photo)
Sylvan Lake offering rent-free storefront space to lure new businesses

Winning business proposal will get a storefront space rent-free for a year

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh holds a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
NDP will not trigger election as long as pandemic continues: Singh

‘“We will vote to keep the government going’

Most Read