Foreign delegations visit region
Climate aside, Central Alberta has much in common with Arizona and Australia.
Some of those similarities were highlighted on Wednesday and Thursday, when Central Alberta: Access Prosperity hosted visitors from both warm-weather jurisdictions.
Michael Carroll, vice-president of business attraction with the Arizona Commerce Authority, toured Red Deer College’s Centre for Innovation in Manufacturing, industrial sites and the Red Deer Airport, among other places.
He also met with local business operators and politicians, including at a Wednesday evening networking dinner in Red Deer.
Carroll described how his state has a well-educated and youthful population, is business-friendly with low taxes and favourable regulations, and enjoys strong transportation links.
“Within a 16-hour drive you have access to almost 70 million people,” he said.
Arizona’s key sectors are aerospace and defence, renewable energy, science and technology (particularly in the medical field), and small business innovation, said Carroll.
Its biggest areas of export to Canada are in the transportation, agriculture and equipment sectors, he said, while the leading imports coming back are in transportation, equipment and forest products.
“We are building a solid, enduring relationship,” said Carroll of Arizona and Canada, which combined in 2011 for $3.5 billion worth of trade.
Teresa Woo-Paw, Alberta’s associate minister of International and Intergovernmental Relations, said the two jurisdictions recognize the importance of small business as an economic driver and the need to minimize taxes and bureaucracy.
“I see that Arizona’s similar pro-business anti-red-tape approach has also yielded impressive results,” she said.
Woo-Paw added that Arizona and Alberta are both seeking to enhance their international competitiveness.
“Alberta’s No. 1 economic priority is expanding market access for our products, and attracting more global investment.”
Visits like Carroll’s are an important step toward achieving that priority, said Matt Cornall, an investment attraction officer with Central Alberta: Access Prosperity.
He explained that building relationships between economic development organization like the Arizona Commerce Authority and Central Alberta: Access Prosperity helps set the stage for cross-border investment and trade.
“The ACA can help our local companies navigate Arizona’s market, with their extensive knowledge of Arizona’s opportunities, business networks and pitfalls,” said Cornall.
He agreed that Arizona and Alberta have much in common, including relatively small populations spread over large land masses, and economies that have diversified from agrarian roots.
Coinciding with Caroll’s visit was a tour by a delegation from the Australian state of Queensland. Consisting of 14 people, including business operators and politicians, they spent time at Olds College and Olds businesses, chatted with Red Deer Mayor Morris Flewwelling and participated in a Thursday-morning breakfast meeting with economic development officials.
Cornall said the Surat Basin region, where the group came from, parallels Central Alberta in that it has been agricultural-focused but is becoming a growing service centre for the energy sector. They were eager to learn how Central Alberta has adapted to a similar transition, he said, and associated issues like labour shortages and social challenges.
“Companies and municipalities in Alberta have become seasoned at seizing the opportunities, as well as addressing the issues, that arise within the oil and gas industry,” said Cornall. “There is a lot of knowledge here in Central Alberta that we can provide to this group by way of lessons learned and strategies developed.”
The relationships that result could create opportunities for Central Albertans, he continued, citing investments, joint ventures and knowledge exchanges as examples.