|Mayor Gail Surkan, left, of Red Deer
proclaims National Engineering and Geoscience Week, Feb.
March 6. The Central Alberta Branch of APEGGA is represented
by Andrew Poole, P.Eng., chair of the branch.
BY ANDREW POOLE, P.ENG.
Central Alberta Branch Chair
Central Alberta is no longer the best kept secret in North
America. The Highway 2 corridor between Calgary and Edmonton
is now recognized as an economic tiger only beginning to
Residents enjoy big-city amenities with small-town lifestyles.
Local chambers of commerce, economic development agencies
and municipal governments are more than willing to herald
the success stories coming from the region.
The City of Red Deer is in the enviable position of leading
the way for the region. Industrial, commercial and residential
projects abound in and around town.
The petroleum and petrochemical sectors continue to spearhead
the growth. A multitude of oilfield service and manufacturing
companies find Red Deer to be the natural place to base
their operations. The huge petrochemical complex in Joffre/Prentiss
includes NOVA, Dow, BP and Praxair. Central Alberta Branch
draws heavily on this location for its members.
The Edgar and Burnt Lake industrial developments straddling
Highway 2 give highly visible evidence to passersby of
burgeoning private sector investment in the area. Commercial
growth is also clear to see, especially along the Gaetz
Residential construction continues almost unabated in
the city. Towns such as Lacombe, Blackfalds, Springbrook
and Sylvan Lake are jumping with housing activity.
Demands placed on the infrastructure have increased concomitantly
with economic growth. Governments and institutions have
responded with significant investments.
Adding Up the Bucks
Infrastructure projects include Red Deer Regional Hospital
Centre expansion ($95 million), Collegeside Estates seniors’ complex,
Red Deer College/Bethany Care joint venture, ($35 million),
Lindsay Thurber High School renovations ($31 million),
construction of major roadway arteries, e.g. Gaetz & 40th
Ave ($8 million) and expansion of the City’s water
and wastewater treatment plants ($17 million).
Red Deer is not alone in the growth. Rocky Mountain House
is seeing construction of an innovative complex ($21 million)
which will house two high schools and a Red Deer College
satellite campus. Construction will begin this summer on
replacement of the North Saskatchewan River bridge in town
on Highway 11A ($10 million). Construction of Innisfail’s
new interchange continues on Highway 2 ($37 million).
Less visible but no less noteworthy is the role played
by smaller manufacturing, construction and consulting firms.
These value-added activities capitalize on the skilled
labour force in the area, the proximity to resources and
markets, and the low cost of doing business. They exemplify
the well-known Alberta entrepreneurial spirit – that
penchant for taking risks and seizing opportunities.
Members Lead Charge
Prosperity brings its own set of challenges. At first glance
competing interests of unfettered industrial growth and
ever-shrinking resources seem irreconcilable. Yet the
fundamental decisions to be made in wrestling with this
philosophical debate will always, at some point, be formulated
in the offices of professional members.
Engineers and geoscientists are in an enviable position
of leadership in addressing these challenges. Our members
have often been characterized as rational, clear-thinking
problem-solvers. This reputation is valuable and well-deserved.
We all see it in our day-to-day jobs. The skill set that
allows a professional member to define seemingly intractable
problems, interpret discrete, often incomplete information,
and develop optimized, real-world solutions, precisely
fits the bill in the search for the “right way.”
Professional members seem to relish the role of the behind-the-scenes
playmaker. Rarely seen to be taking credit for their accomplishments,
they take satisfaction from a job well done, secure in
the conviction they are serving society to the fullest
In breaking with our humble traditions I’d like to
salute the work done by Peter Stevens, P.Eng., our past
chair. Peter steadfastly led the executive in our regular
work but also conceived and implemented a new way to reach
out to our members – in the Lunchtime Forums.
These forums allow members to learn about the opportunities
and challenges on the horizon. Diamond mining, coalbed
methane and solar power are just a few of the topics discussed
in the past year.
By following this example, the branch will continue to
serve our members and keep open these windows of opportunity.
Looking to the future, I’d encourage all our members
to bring forward issues whereby we can celebrate successes
or initiate improvements in the practices of the branch
and the Association.
Land and Economic Development Office, City of Red Deer
Red Deer Chamber of Commerce
Red Deer Advocate
Central Alberta Economic Partnership