Alberta energy minister Ken Hughes

Alberta energy minister Ken Hughes

Oil and gas expo future bright

Attendance may not have been as high as organizers had hoped for, but the 2013 Red Deer Oil & Gas Expo has set the stage for similar events in the future.

Attendance may not have been as high as organizers had hoped for, but the 2013 Red Deer Oil & Gas Expo has set the stage for similar events in the future.

“I have not spoken to one exhibitor that didn’t say they wanted to come back next year,” said Dwayne McArthur, the man behind the inaugural event. “We also have a list at the front of over 50 companies that want to be on the 2015 waiting list.”

The expo, which ran Wednesday and Thursday in the Stockmen’s and Prairie pavilions at Westerner Park, saw all 400 indoor booth spaces booked, as well as 183 outside.

“Outside was absolutely full,” said McArthur. “We couldn’t have squeezed a pickup truck in there.”

Among those in attendance on Thursday was Alberta Energy Minister Ken Hughes, who said he was impressed with what he saw.

“This is a natural place to do that kind of thing,” said Hughes, noting the “robust service sector” that operates out of Red Deer.

“Obviously Red Deer has the advantage of being in Central Alberta, and that’s convenient for a lot of people.”

McArthur said attendance was lower than he had expected. This might have been attributable in part to the fact Red Deer’s Oil & Gas Expo overlapped with the Fort McMurray Oil Sands Trade Show and Conference — a conflict he plans to avoid in the future.

Holding the show later in the week, perhaps Thursday to Saturday, might also help attendance, he suggested. But most exhibitors appear opposed to such a change.

Now that the Oil & Gas Expo has established itself as a legitimate event, it should draw more attention in the future, he said.

“I think there’s a lot of people who weren’t going to take the day off work to drive all the way from Rocky or Stettler to come to a show that they knew nothing about.”

Rick Moore, membership and community relations manager with the Red Deer Chamber of Commerce, agreed.

“The feedback has been good for a first show,” he said. “It’s going to build, just like Agri-Trade.

Ed Evans, a territory manager with Red Deer’s Pumps & Pressure Inc., was pleased with his experience at the Expo.

“We’ve been busy,” he said. “We’ve sold lots of lube tanks, and we sold pressure washers and air compressors and steam trucks.

“For Pumps & Pressure, it’s been a good show.”

Adam Jasper, a technical writer with Lee Specialties Ltd., also of Red Deer, said that Wednesday was a bit slow but things picked up on Thursday.

“There were a lot more people coming in who were kind of targeted to what we’re trying to sell.”

Jasper said he was impressed with the displays and the technology being showcased. And he also thinks the 2013 Expo has established the foundation for bigger and better things in the future.

“It’s a great place to network and a great place to learn,” he said. “If you’re thinking of getting into the oil and gas industry, this is a great place to learn what’s out there before you make a decision of what career path you want to pursue.”

Running concurrent with the Red Deer Oil & Gas Expo was Boutiques For Women. It took place in the salons adjacent to the Prairie Pavilion.

McArthur is already planning for the next Oil & Gas Expo and Boutiques For Women in 2015.

Hughes, who was accompanied by Alberta International and Intergovernmental Relations Minister Cal Dallas, said Alberta’s energy industry is at a critical juncture as it tries to expand its market beyond the United States.

Challenges remain, said Hughes, but he’s pleased with the progress that’s been made over the past six to eight months in developing new transportation links.

“People should never underestimate how the market will work. If there’s a difference in the price for something in one part of the continent compared to another, the market will figure out how to make the connection and make it work and make those price differentials go away.”

That said, continued Hughes, Alberta still needs to strive to ensure its energy producers get improved access to tidewater ports and global markets.