Region courts investment by foreign firms

The Red Deer region is being pitched to businesses in Germany, Denmark, Texas and California in hopes of bringing at least two new companies to the area within a year.

The Red Deer region is being pitched to businesses in Germany, Denmark, Texas and California in hopes of bringing at least two new companies to the area within a year.

Details of a foreign direct investment project being driven by Red Deer Regional Economic Development and Central Alberta Economic Development were presented on Wednesday at a Red Deer Chamber of Commerce luncheon.

Cyril Cooper, land and economic development officer with the City of Red Deer, described how a foreign direct investment gap analysis for the region was conducted in 2008. That led to the selection of three underdeveloped sectors for attention: manufacturing, agri-food, and transportation and logistics.

A list of 115 corporate “leads” were then compiled, with Rainmaker Global Business Development contracted to pursue 20 of the most promising.

“We have some really exciting ones we’re going after,” said Rainmaker president and CEO Clark Grue, adding that he can’t identify the foreign companies being pursued.

“Some of them are service companies for the agriculture sector, some are very tied to the oil and gas industry and oilfield supply — those have been the focus so far.”

Rainmaker has spoken with a half-dozen prospects, said Grue. The expansion plans of these range from a couple employees to more than 100.

Ultimately, it’s important that the decision-makers with the companies being courted come to Central Alberta and see what the area has to offer.

“Frankly, it comes down to a business decision, and nine times out of 10 a personal choice. So getting them to the region is critical.”

Arrangements have already been made for officials with a German company to meet with representatives from the Red Deer region in Calgary on Thursday, said Grue.

“The easier we can make it here . . . and the more embracing we are for these companies when they do come to visit, the better.”

Grue, who previously worked for Calgary Economic Development, said the project could bear fruit soon.

“What we’re trying to achieve this calendar year is get two of these investors landed.”

In addition to following up on the current leads, the plan is to create an ongoing system for fostering and pursuing foreign direct investment opportunities for the Red Deer region, said Grue.

Rimbey Mayor Dale Barr, who is past chair of Central Alberta Economic Development and a key player in the foreign direct investment project, said a regional collaboration of this nature is unique.

Grue stressed that it’s also important to work to retain the foreign direct investment that exists here already.

Currently, noted Cooper, there are 210 foreign-owned companies in the Red Deer region, with these employing close to 5,000 people.

He added that a project is also underway to brand the Red Deer region in a way that will make it more inviting to foreign direct investment.

Red Deer Regional Economic Development is a strategic partnership consisting of the City of Red Deer, Red Deer County, the Red Deer Chamber of Commerce and Red Deer College.

Central Alberta Economic Development is a regional alliance involving 41 members and 13 associate organizations.

hrichards@bprda.wpengine.com