Haggis, bagpipes and kilts.
Such cultural icons might spring to mind when Albertans reflect on Scotland. Adnan Ahmad would prefer they think about energy, agriculture and life sciences.
Ahmad is a development executive with Scottish Development International, the international arm of the Scottish government’s economic development agency. He’s been in Calgary since February, about two months before Scotland’s second SDI office in Canada opened there. The first was in Toronto.
“Alberta is certainly one of the growing provinces in Canada, and we recognize that,” said Ahmad during a visit to Red Deer on Monday.
“The majority of the Canadian investors who are in Scotland are from Alberta.”
This reflects Alberta’s and Scotland’s common interest in energy development, he said.
“Around 20 to 25 per cent of production in the North Sea is by Canadian companies.”
Conversely, there are about 14 Scottish companies operating in Alberta. Most of these are energy-related and located in Calgary.
Ahmad described his role as two-fold: helping Scottish companies do business in Canada and encouraging Canadian investment in Scotland. In the latter case, his office can provide market information, arrange for partners, help with human resources, and assist with research and development.
“So really, from the first point in getting information to actually establishing themselves in Scotland, we assist them through the process.”
There are about a half-dozen sectors that Scotland’s economic development agency is focusing on when it comes to Canada, said Ahmad. In the case of Western Canada, which he is responsible for, the key ones are energy, agriculture and life sciences.
There are compelling reasons for Canadian companies looking to expand beyond North America to consider Scotland, said Ahmad. The two countries use the same language and have strong historic ties.
The Great Britain country is also a gateway to Europe, as well as to the Middle East and Africa, has a skilled and experienced workforce, is cost-competitive and has a reputation for innovation when it comes to oil and gas development.
Ahmad credits this last attribute to the challenging nature of North Sea production.
The Scottish Development International office in Calgary brought representatives from about eight Scottish companies to last month’s Global Petroleum Show. They met with Alberta businesses and organizations, including Central Alberta: Access Prosperity — a partnership involving the City of Red Deer, Red Deer County, the Red Deer Chamber of Commerce, Red Deer College and Central Alberta Economic Partnership that’s working to attract foreign investment to the region.
“As a result of that, we’re having a visit later in August from one of those (Scottish) businesses,” said Central Alberta: Access Prosperity manager Gary Slipp.
On Monday, Slipp introduced Ahmad to a number of local companies spanning several industries.
“We tried to give Adnan a cross-section of some of the businesses here. But we hope this isn’t his only visit.”
Before moving into his current position, Ahmad worked for the Swedish trade council in Dubai.
“When my friends ask me, I normally say that I like extremes. First I went to a really hot climate in Dubai and lived there, and now it’s the other way around.”