In a very unique and innovative move, the Leduc-Nisku EDA held their final breakfast of the year in a working aircraft hangar at the Edmonton International Airport. Apparently the location and subject matter of the breakfast proved interesting to many, as 250 people were registered to attend the event.
Rotary Music Festival 16 and under Gold Medal winner Amanda Hammer opened the morning with a stunningly beautiful rendition of O' Canada which actually drew a round of applause from the crowd.
Once everyone had filled their plates from the bounty provided by the chefs at RedTail Landing and had wound their way back to their seats, EIA's President and CEO informed everyone that a big announcement was about to take place. This is when Kevin Ferrier, Managing Director for Sales at FedEx Canada, took to the stage to say that FedEx will be increasing the cargo traffic through EIA by 20,000 kilos/day by moving up from a Boeing 757 to an Airbus 301. The new Airbus will be delivered in January of 2013, and will make FedEx the largest cargo carrier working out of EIA.
This was the perfect segue way into the morning's topic of transportation, with the title being "Ship Happens". Representatives from three different aspects of transportation; air, trucks and trains, plus two transportation hub specialists were on hand to take part in the panel discussion moderated by Graeme Burns. The panelists were Michael Reeves, President of Ports to Plains Alliance, Myron Keehn, VP of Commercial Development at Edmonton Airports, Tim Christensen, Assistant Service Centre Manager at Canadian Freightways, Jason Copping, GM at Gateway and Government Affairs at CP Rail, and Daryl Procinsky, Board Chair of Port Alberta.
Graeme began the discussion by informing the crowd that 75 billion dollars of product moved through Alberta every year, and over the last few years the Alberta economy has continued to drive the need for moving goods with truck shipping of freight increasing by 46%. His first question to the panel was "What do you consider the biggest obstacle to be facing the movement of containerized freight, and how can it be remedied?"
The panelists listed several different issues they accounted for in their specialized areas but their weren't a lot of suggested solutions put forward. However, something that seemed to resonate across the board was the fact that more work was needed on current government legislation in order to allow Canada to be competitive in the world market. Michael Reeves commented on how, if you look at the different mission statements at the US and Canadian borders, Canada's is all about movement of goods and traffic, while the US' is all about protection.
Mr. Reeves also garnered a round of applause when he was commenting on the need for rural infrastructure and stated, "We gotta get the bread to the table! People in the US are almost oblivious to anything out of their own area. The challenge is to raise the awareness of Alberta as a supply chain link."
When the question of workforce labour issues was placed before the panel, Tim Christensen voiced his concern of the severe shortage of skilled employees. "We are looking at recruiting transport drivers from Mexico." he stated. He shared of how over the last 10 years their workforce has deteriorated due to the retirement of older drivers, and that they simply don't have the people to meet the demand. In an effort to bring along new drivers they are partnering their new recruits with experienced haulers to attempt to pass along the valuable knowledge, pride of job, and service skills that are typically only gained after being in the business for many years.
When the final question of 'What do we need to do in the next 5 years?' was posed, there seemed to be a general consensus that the various industries needed to join forces and work together.
Jason Copping spoke of how CP Rail is focusing on integrating their supply chain participation with their Edmonton intermodal facility, and also working to simplify their processes to shorten delivery times. As he very succinctly put it, "The world is not standing still."
In a closing statement, Mr. Christensen voiced what the challenge is going to be for all the businesses going forward from here; "The price to do business is going up. We have to find ways to remain competitive and still offer the the level of service that our customers expect."
In a lovely gesture all of the panelists this morning donated their honorariums to the charities of their choice which were KidSport Alberta, the Leduc Food Bank, the Prostate Cancer Society, Youth Empowerment Alberta and STARS.
Two Ambassadors were inducted this morning as well, with the first being Mr. Bob Gaetz who owns Gaetz Realty and sits on a number of boards in Edmonton. Locally, Bob most recently sat on the Leduc Municipal Development Plan Committee and the Telford Lake Master Plan Committee. Bob's roots go deep here as he is a fifth generation Albertan and his great grandfather was Leduc's very first Mayor.
Michael Reeves was also inducted as an Ambassador for his work promoting this area in the US.