March's Chamber Luncheon took place on Friday, March 2nd at the lovely Redtail Landing Golf Course. The chef and staff at Redtail truly outdid themselves with a fabulous buffet featuring Beef Rouladen and roast chicken with multiple salads, hot side dishes and a table-full of desserts to tempt any taste buds.
Once the noshing was done Chamber V.P. and owner of Minuteman Press, Alana Gueutal, stepped up to the microphone to lead the room in an acapalla version of O Canada. Then Pastor Joanne Webster from Leduc's St. Paul's Anglican Church, stood to say grace and bless all of the fabulous food everyone was treated to.
Then Stefanie Schulz, Executive Director of the Leduc Chamber of Commerce, read aloud a letter that had been sent to both Federal and Provincial Government representatives on behalf of Alberta's Chambers of Commerce and various other agencies, trying to raise awareness that Alberta is going to be experiencing a severe shortage of workers in the very near future, and some things that might be done about addressing that issue. This was received with a lot of head nodding and agreement throughout the business community that was gathered at the luncheon.
President of the Chamber, Ashley Robbins, then welcomed fourteen new businesses that had joined the Chamber within the last month.
With everyone fed and happy, the guest speaker Mr. Todd Hirsch, Senior Economist with ATB Financial, was introduced and welcomed to the stage. His presentation was titled "Alberta Economy 2012 – A Game of Skill and Chance".
His speech was presented in layman's terms that anyone could easily understand, and elicited laughter from the crowd several times as throughout his presentation he drew comparisons between the world's economy and various board games.
Todd opened by showing a picture of a game on PowerPoint and asking the audience if anyone remembered this game? Several people identified it as a board game called "Stock-ticker". He went on to state that he felt this game was a good way to understand what is happening in the global economy. He also said that the main engine running the global economy this year is China.
Then Todd showed a slide of a board game called "Twister" and said that it best represented his view of China's economy, in that China is very flexible in being able to ramp up it's production rate. Twister is also, typically, a young person's game and with China only being a part of the global economy for the last 30 years, it is still a young player in the scheme of things.
A round of laughter passed over the room as Europe's economy was likened to the game "Kerplunk". Todd stated that Kerplunk is not a thinking persons game and that there are only two outcomes. If you make a move and everything stays the same it's good, if you remove one of the sticks and the marble starts falling down, that's bad, just like the European economy. The longer things can stay the same the better it will be for them. Todd garnered another round of chuckles when he likened the picture of the little boy and girl on the front of the game box to the leaders of Germany and France, with everyone around the world watching to see how this game is being played.
The U.S. economy was likened to the game "Operation". It is a game of skill, with the U.S. needing to stimulate growth and spending within their own economy but they have not been very effective at doing that over the last four years. Todd said that he feels their market is finally off life support and moving in the right direction but there are still a lot of moves left to be made in this game.
Canada, on the other hand, was likened to the game "Ants In The Pants". This game is a game of chance. Not a lot of skill is needed to play this game and sadly, we are at the mercy of the different world economies to a large extent. Todd stated that we need to "hunker down and hope for the best".
Alberta itself actually came sailing through 2011 in fantastic shape with 3.5-4% growth. In 2012, and Todd said that Alberta reminded him of the game "Snakes And Ladders". Again, not a big thinking game but it can be a lot of fun if you roll the dice right. His sense is that the ladders are stronger than the snakes for 2012.
In regard to the pipeline projects, as soon as Todd projected a picture of the next game onto the screen, everyone in the crowd laughed and shouted out "Sorry"! Just like in the game, he said, you might feel like you are making great progress when all of a sudden another player whips out the "Sorry" card and sends you back to square one. Todd stated that it may be unjustified and undeserved, but we cannot assume that these things will just happen as we want them to as they have in years past.
As for the real estate market in Alberta for the coming year? Todd feels that it will be very similar to the game "Scrabble". He said, "You want to kill a party fast? Pull out Scrabble!" Once the laughter had died down he continued on with drawing a line between the similarities in that Scrabble is a game of thought and strategy, and it is also a very slow moving game to play, tying it in to the fact that housing starts in Alberta are currently below the ten year average. "It's not that real estate is in terrible shape, it's just constrained at the moment." stated Todd. He said that the possibility is there to ramp up quickly but it's more likely that prices will stay pretty stable this year.
And the final slide of the afternoon emphasized that if all goes to plan we will escape the game of "Trouble".
To conclude his time onstage, Todd shared with everyone that he had recently become a published author. The title of his book, "the Boiling Frog Dilemma", plays off the old adage of how you can put a frog into a kettle of cold water and if you turn the heat up gradually the frog will be so comfortable that he will boil to death before he gets motivated to jump out of the pot. Todd laughingly assured the audience that no frogs were harmed in the making of his book. The preface of his book is actually about how Canadians need to change some of our attitudes about creating wealth.
After Stefanie thanked Todd for his interesting and topical presentation, Ashley Robbins took to the stage again to make a few final announcements. Most notably, that the Leduc Chamber has been granted approval for eighteen new business signs on Highway 2, and that the Chamber Gala that took place on February 18th had received a record number of nominations for all of the awards this year.
City Councillor Glen Finstad then stepped forward to remind everyone that the Scotia Bank Pro-Am "Stick It To Alzheimer's" Hockey Tournament is taking place at the Leduc Recreation Centre on March 30, 31 and April 1. He let everyone know that there was still room for a couple of teams to enter as well as purchasing tables to support a great cause.
With that the luncheon came to a close with a reminder that the April luncheon will take place on March 30th at the Best Western Denham Inn and Suites. The sponsor for this luncheon is the Leduc Community Drug Action Committee and the speaker will be Sgt. Ian Sanderson. Hope to see you there!