Nova staff get home downtown

Downtown Red Deer will soon welcome a familiar corporate resident.

Downtown Red Deer will soon welcome a familiar corporate resident.

Nova Chemical Corp. has confirmed that it’s signed a leasing agreement for three floors in Executive Place.

The Calgary-based petrochemical company, which operates ethylene and polyethylene plants east of Red Deer at Joffre, has already begun preparing space in the 4900 50th St. building for its use.

Rick Van Hemmen, Nova’s site leader at Joffre, said his company will occupy the fourth, fifth and sixth floors of the 12-storey building. About 60 to 70 people are expected to work there.

“We’re intending to put a reception area on the sixth floor,” said Van Hemmen.

He expects the renovation work to be completed by mid-February, although some of Nova’s employees could move before then.

Those slated for relocation include personnel involved in purchasing, logistics, IT, accounting and central engineering.

Most of Nova’s approximately 750 workers and 300 to 400 contractors currently work out of the company’s Joffre complex. But it’s run out of space there and wants to move employees not directly involved with the production process away from the site, said Van Hemmen.

“It’s really just a matter of minimizing risk wherever we can. Essential operating personnel really need to be near the plants, other folks do not need to be as close.”

The opportunity to increase its visible presence in Red Deer is also a plus, he said. And Executive Place, which was completed in 2010, was deemed to be the preferred option when it came to local office space.

“This really was the best balance for us in terms of location, high-quality building, a much more effective build-out possibility.”

Bill Graham, who chairs the Red Deer Downtown Business Association, said it’s great to see the permanent workforce in the city’s core increase.

“It just injects more life into the downtown,” he said. “These are people who are going to shop, they’re going to eat, they might bank downtown.”

Graham, who is president and CEO of Rifco Inc., a national auto finance business based in downtown Red Deer, said the area is becoming a business hub for Central Alberta. Nova’s arrival is just the latest in a series of positive developments there, he said.

Nova previously leased space downtown in Red Deer’s Millennium Centre, with many of its administrative staff working there. But 2 1/2 years ago, a decline in business prompted the company to consolidate its operations at Joffre.

“Some of those folks are happy to go back into town,” said Van Hemmen.

Others, he added, live outside Red Deer and were content with the commute to Joffre.

Its three floors in Executive Place will give Nova room for further expansion, said Van Hemmen. The company also a right of refusal for additional space.

“I don’t think we anticipate that in the near term.”

Stantec Inc. currently leases half of the seventh floor and all of the levels above that.

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