Central Alberta laid out an international welcome mat on Monday.
About a dozen members of the Calgary Consular Corps visited the region at the invitation of Central Alberta: Access Prosperity. They toured oilfield equipment manufacturer Crimtech Services Ltd. in Gasoline Alley Business Park and checked out Red Deer College, including RDC’s Centre for Innovation in Manufacturing.
Among those taking part were Yongfeng Liu, consul-general for China; Jean-Charles Bou, consul for France; Andreas Bayer, honorary consul for Switzerland; Giovanni De Maria, honorary consul for Guinea; and Jeff Gilmour, honorary consul for Mali.
Liu, who has been in her position for just over two years, following a 20-year career with China’s foreign ministry, said Alberta is important to her country.
“The total volume of investment from China to Alberta is more than $18 billion US dollars,” she said. “We have, altogether, 30 Chinese companies already here in Alberta. Most of them are newcomers.”
Liu said the Chinese consulate in Calgary — which is responsible for Alberta, Saskatchewan and the Northwest Territories — has 14 staff. Nearly half of them made the trip to Red Deer.
“We feel that Red Deer, and I think my colleagues agree, is a very good place to invest and do business in.”
The city is centrally located between Calgary and Edmonton, close to oil and gas development, and has residents with experience in the energy sector, she said. What it needs to do is promote itself to prospective investors in countries like China, said Liu.
“When we are talking about Canada, we know Toronto, Vancouver, Quebec and Montreal,” she said, adding that Calgary and Edmonton probably come next, with Red Deer well after that.
Gary Slipp, manager of Central Alberta: Access Prosperity, said Monday’s visit was organized to raise this region’s international profile.
“This group really welcomed the opportunity to come here today and learn a bit more,” he said, expressing optimism that similar visits could be arranged in the future.
Slipp pointed out that there are between 40 and 50 consuls in Calgary, and a comparable number in Edmonton. Some of those taking part in Monday’s event discussed ways to take advantage of Red Deer’s central location.
“They were talking about why couldn’t we organize a Edmonton-Calgary consular corps summit here in Red Deer,” said Slipp. “So that’s something that we’ll try to encourage.”
Even though the consulates are located in Alberta’s two biggest cities, those offices serve the entire province, he said. Local businesses should take advantage of these resources.
Red Deer County Mayor Jim Wood and Red Deer College president Joel Ward both addressed the group. Ward drew smiles and nods from the Chinese members when he listed some of the cities he visited while teaching in China in 1998.
“The world watches China with fascination and interest,” he told them. “And the change that’s taking place in your country is phenomenal and extraordinary.”