Members Rouse Economic Tiger

Mayor Gail Surkan, left, of Red Deer proclaims National Engineering and Geoscience Week, Feb. 27 to March 6. The Central Alberta Branch of APEGGA is represented by Andrew Poole, P.Eng., chair of the branch.

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 stir.

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 Avenue strip.

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 degree.

Special Thanks
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

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