Posts by: NWB Staff

The holidays are back with a vengeance and it’s time once again to spread tinsel as well as good cheer around the office. But what can you give to the busy person on-the go that you haven’t already given year after year? How can you wow your office mates or the big boss without breaking the bank? Well, here are some cool and innovative gift ideas that you may not have thought of.

Electronic Gifts
Smartpens are remarkable little devices that not only transmit everything you write from your notepad directly to your computer or hand-held device but also simultaneously record the audio in the room around you. They’re compact, easy to hold and maneuver and are available for around a hundred bucks.

Smartpens could be especially convenient for busy students or for those taking important notes out in the field or at an important meeting. They can even be used to draw or doodle if the user wants to express themselves in a more creative fashion.

Smartpens look like many traditional pens but are vastly different in that they have a tiny infrared camera right under the pen point that takes moving pictures of what you’re writing. That information is then wirelessly transferred to your computer or other device for later use.

The secret behind the functionality of Smartpens though is the use of special paper and the Dot Positioning System. This system consists of very unusual paper which is covered in a series of, well you guessed it, dots.

Although virtually invisible to the naked eye, the dots are organized in such a fashion that as the pen moves over them it recognizes its exact position and recalls the information recorded there, either audibly or in an LED display on the surface of the pen.

The paper also includes printed navigational buttons, similar to those found on a tape recorder that include the options to record, jump to another point or bookmark specific points in your work for later use. Smartpens even have the capability to translate your work into different languages making this the perfect gift for just about anybody on your shopping list.

Artsy Gifts
Would you say your boss is a…character? Are your office partners unique or even perhaps quirky, in some way? Well here’s a gift that will tell them exactly what you think about them, but in a fun way.

Caricatures are brilliant works of art created from personal photos that capture the likeness of any person or persons, but with a comical slant. So the boss with a passion for golf may be depicted as slicing the ball into the woods with a surprised look and uttering the expression “fore!”, or the manager with a taste for outdoor activities could be pictured fly fishing and uttering the familiar “a bad day fly fishing is better than a good day in the office.” Or even just a picture of the person smiling while working at their desk or on the phone would work nicely. These are simple examples of how the art could be devised but how your quarry is captured and represented is purely up to you.

Caricatures are highly personalized gifts that show a genuine liking and interest in your colleague’s character. Because of this it is of the utmost importance that you select the appropriate photograph from which the art will be created so that the desired traits are highlighted in the art. But be careful! A gift of this nature could be construed as overly critical or inappropriate so when working with the artist make sure and highlight desirable and humorous traits so you’ll still have a job in the new year.

Caricatures are available through various on-line and local sources and can be created starting at around $100, depending on the type of matting and frame you choose for your work of art.

Relaxing Gifts
Since the arrival of the chair over 4500 years ago human beings have been striving to improve it by making it more comfortable, supportive and beautiful. Years of research and development and countless hours of sitting have led us to great advances in seating technology and chairs that rival or perhaps even exceed the thrones of the mighty pharaohs themselves.

Although massage chairs carry a lofty price tag (beginning at around $150 and extending into the thousands) they are undoubtedly an amazing and generous gift for the executive in your life.

Some lower-end models offer multi-speed massaging with lumbar support and sensors that recharge the batteries when the chair isn’t in use, while others include features like heated surfaces and remote controls. The upper level chairs, found in the $2000- 3000 range are nothing short of spectacular. Many of these include infrared heat which penetrates deeply into the muscle tissues, and air bladders that inflate and deflate gently massaging your back and legs. Further attributes include foot and calf massage, stretching mechanisms that decompress the spine, a variety of massage programs and even a zero gravity feature that puts you into a virtually weightless position.

Although most of us need to work to survive who says we can’t work in comfort and style?

Winston Churchill said, “why stand when you can sit”.

Obviously, you’ll need deep pockets to spring for the more expensive chairs but wouldn’t it look nice under the tree? And perhaps if you play your cards right, you’ll be able to slip into that cozy chair yourself for a little relaxation time when no one is looking.

 

Last month’s Tech Talk introduced the first five of Scott Berkun’s 10 Myths of Innovation. In his recent book, “The Myths of Innovation” Scott deliberately sets out to break the mythical ways in which we may think about innovation, so that we can be ‘free to try and change the world.’ What follows are myths six through 10.

Myth #6 – Good ideas are hard to find. It is universally accepted by psychologists and creativity researchers that humans are built for creative thinking. “The difference between creatives and others is more attitude and experience than nature.” This is a point that we emphasize in our Idea to Implementation Workshop at the Centre for Research & Innovation. One of the quickest ways to restore our creative nature in the workplace is to stop the misuse of brainstorming by eliminating the judgment of ideas and all negativity around an idea’s value. Start by simply generating ideas without filtering or denigrating them. Idea-generation processes like brainstorming should be fun.

Myth #7 – Your boss knows more about innovation than you. Why would she? The manager is charged with producing an outcome (product or service) probably with directions to do that efficiently.

In fact, the need for improved productivity is a common story within business pages and is a focus of the AB Government’s efforts related to productivity. But innovation often runs counter to productivity and thus needs to be managed. Berkun suggests five challenges to managing innovation. First – life of ideas: someone must be responsible for the idea. Secondly – environment: someone must create an environment the will “put innovation at the centre”. Thirdly – protection: as Berkun sees it, it is the manager’s unique responsibility to protect the new idea while it develops. The fourth is execution – all steps (i.e. concept, prototypes, production models, market ready product) are necessary. Finally, innovations require funding and leadership to get it there, that is, persuasion.

Myth #8 – The best ideas win. Simply not true. Ask any Apple user; and remember what happened to Beta video tapes. What about Imperial measurement and the Metric system? Need more be said about the QWERTY keyboard and how stuck we are in its use when a number of more efficient key arrangements have been developed? Just because you have a ‘best idea’ don’t expect acceptance.

Myth #9 – Problems and solutions. Burken suggests that problems should be seen as an invitation to look beyond the obvious. While that may seem unnecessary for everyday problems, it may lead to solutions that have greater use than first imagined. “Framing problems to help solve them” usually means time and effort well spent.

Myth #10 – Innovation is always good. Is an innovation good if it solves your problems [and those of your customers] or makes you money? Definitely. But what if it also causes people to lose their jobs? . . . The impact of innovations can be unpredictable (DDT, the Internet). Sometimes their impact is sudden, while for others it takes years. Occasionally, the ‘Law of Unintended Consequences’ prevails.

There they are – The Myths of Innovation.

Not only is his book a good read, but it is full of practical tips on how to be an innovator or an innovative company. The journey begins with the decision.

Dr. Bruce Rutley is the Director of the Centre for Research & Innovation at Grande Prairie Regional College.

 

 

It’s a tough jump from small local company to being able to compete with the big boys but one Grande Prairie company has been able to do that, and do it in a relatively short period of time.

Co-owners Dean Kato and Brad Clarke started Tradesmen Enterprises in 2006 with 10 employees and that number has grown in just a few years to 320.

As well In 2008 Tradesmen expanded their services to include a pipeline division and brought on Donnie O’Brien as manager and co-owner of the division.

“Just in the last two years we’ve grown over 300 per cent,” said Business Development officer Keith Smith.

The company specializes in gas plant and facilities and pipeline construction and has recently been awarded a contract to build part of the Alta-Gas project in Gordendale, AB. The project’s overall budget is $230 million and even without building the entire facility,it’s a huge success for the locals at Tradesmen and offers a good indication of what they are capable of.

“It’s one really nice way to attract that common workforce because we are going to need some more people,” said Clarke. “ It’s not a camp job and it’s not out of town and we’ve got a lot of local people that work for us anyway so they love that, and then people from out of town and they don’t mind coming to Grande Prairie and staying in hotels; Grande Prairie has a lot to offer.”

Their growth has been nothing short of spectacular and they attribute that to a hands-on, grassroots approach to running the company.

“Both myself and Brad have grown up in the Peace Country,” said Kato, “and that definitely does help. The oil patch is a small world when you start talking about the service industry and the aspect of work that we do, it’s very small. You’re name carries a long way in the oil patch and we’ve been fortunate enough that all of our people and the jobs that we do are always on budget and always on time and that holds a lot of weight in the clients’ eyes.”

There is nothing that they ask employees to do that they haven’t done. Both men started out as labourers in the oil patch: Kato as a welder and Clarke as a pipefitter. They worked their way up the ranks, got the training they needed, and when they started their own company, they were able to grow their leadership skills along with it. They attribute much of their leadership to valuing integrity, honesty and dedication.

And they’re still learning. Last year they both learned to fly the two helicopters the company now owns.

It’s a way to visit more sites in a shorter time and access remote locations, they explained. It helps put their feet on the ground with their clients and workers and they said that’s just where they want to be.

“We’ve got a very open and handson approach to running the company and, in my opinion, that goes a long way nowadays for the guys to be able to see that – to be able to see the president of the company out on a jobsite or walking around the yard and be able to go up and talk to them – that’s a huge thing for the guys nowadays,” said Kato.

“I would have to agree that a lot of the workers started off, and have worked with us for a long time so they’re used to seeing us even years back when we the guys actually on the jobsite looking after the individual projects for other companies,” said Clarke. They understand that although we’re owners…we can understand things from their point of view because we both started off as labourers.”

They would love to continue a steady and sustainable growth for Tradesmen Enterprises until they can employ 400-500 workers and generate $80-$100 million in annual revenue, so it is perhaps a benefit that the industry as a whole is busy and they are experiencing some of the same issues prevalent throughout the region.

“We were busy even a year ago. What the current boom has done is prevent further growth because you can’t hire welders or pipefitters or a labour force to even grow more,” said Smith.

“Materials are coming into affect now because other companies that supply  us for structural steel and piping – they can’t produce it as quick.”

The company has a very low staff turnover rate and coupled with the fact that their key employees have been with the company for years, makes the labour shortage less pressing than it might be.

And the company has grown large enough that while projects may have become more complex, getting the work is easier.

“We’ve got the infrastructure in place to manage the larger projects which is the hard part coming from a small company,” said Clarke. And larger projects help create more stability for their workforce, providing a buffer for both the company and its employees alike.

 

The future looks bright for both the County and City of Grande Prairie and they are busy planning to make the most of the opportunities.

“I think the region has a lot to offer families and potential employees,” said county administrator Bill Rogan.

“I think it’s probably fair to say it’s always difficult to attract to the North, there seems to be that sense that you get too far out of the bigger city, but I think that the Grande Prairie Region has got all the amenities that any family would want to get in a larger centre, perhaps on a little bit smaller scale but sometimes that’s okay too.”

Grande Prairie has seen a substantial amount of reinvestment into the area both by industry and government and they say that’s going to payoff for people.

“Council has had an opportunity toset its strategic plan which really had a focus on financial matters and the fiscal sustainability of our community,” said Mayor Bill Given.

“If we can continue to reinvest in (infrastructure) and still have the lowest property tax increase over the past decade then I think council has done a fantastic job, and it really proves that our consensus focus on the bottom line was the right direction to go.”

At a municipal level, said Given, they are planning for modest growth because municipalities tend to lag behind industrial development but that doesn’t mean they aren’t looking further down the road.

“Council has been working with administration to institute industrial attraction development strategies. We know that we’re going to have a significant amount of land available and we believe that we need to be open for business and have strategies ready as soon as that land comes under the city’s jurisdiction to encourage industry to locate there,” said Given.

Current investments include a plan to set aside $8 million a year for roads, $250,000 for pathways and trails, a new fire hall for the west end and of course, the jewel in the crown, $110 million on a multiplex.

With $700,000 alone going toward a dino theme to compliment the proposed Philip J. Curry Museum, Given believes the facility will be something that has a regional and tourism draw.

“Council put a lot of time and effort into it to ensure that there’s something for everyone. It’s the only 54 metre pool northwest of Edmonton until you get to probably Whitehorse, and it has Canada’s second FlowRider surfing machine.

The county has its draws as well with their sportsplex, scheduled to come online in a year, complimenting the multiplex. That facility will house a twin ice arena and a half, full pitch soccer field.

“I think those two buildings combined are going to provide facilities second to none in the province as far as what families are looking for in the realm of recreation combined with the other things that already exist here: the parks, the ski hills, the cross-country skiing, so I think the region has much to offer to anyone that’s interested in relocating to the area for business,” said Given.

The added amenities are a response to industrial and commercial growth and although municipalities may lag behind a year, there has been plenty of activity on that side of things as well.

“I think we’re on the leading edge of another pick up in the economy,” said Given. “And I think this is a fantastic thing about the Peace Region; we really float in our own little lifeboat above the rest of the world economy. Certainly we go up and down with it but often times we ride slightly above, and I think from all the signs and indicators that we can see the Grande Prairie Region is set to take off again.”

Walmart is doing an expansion that will nearly double the size of their facility, there are some significant projects in the west end near where Grande Prairie’s third fire hall is going to be: Atco is consolidating some of their services from across the city and creating a regional service centre – that’s about a $73-million project just south of the airport – and another major truck stop has also been added to that area.

“Certainly we saw an uptick this fall in new development as far as commercial/ industrial…we’ve seen a real surge in development permits being taken out for new buildings,” said Rogan.

“A lot of our industrial parks are starting to fill up and I think we’ll probably be seeing some more lands being brought on for industrial use into the new year if the demand keeps up and we’re presuming it keeps up.”

Upgrades at Weyerhaeuser and Canfor bode well for the future of the forestry sector even as the oil and gas sector ramps up.

Truck drivers, heavy duty mechanics, and on the professional side, accounts are some of the positions that are already showing the largest need for workers, said Rogan.

“People are reinvesting, adding on, hiring employees, building new buildings, the oil patch from what I can understand is very active – we’re still a regional service centre.”

Indications are growing that support a growth trend, with more help wanted signs, and prices for projects increasing as contractors are harder to get.

“I’m very confident in our local economy. I know that it can be impacted by the world economy but I am very confident that we are on solid footing for a very strong three to five years at least.

I think the biggest theme running in Grande Prairie today, as it has been for a while, is that there is still a growing opportunity in our city…I think that the city has made the right kinds of investments in public infrastructure that the city is going to be an attractive place for employees to live and the next step is for us to start to make strategic investments in the infrastructure that will provide good opportunities for business and our council is ready to do that.

One of the things that is being handled differently that it has been in the past, is that instead of allocating funds to specific road projects, the city has opted to allocate a budget of $6 million to be available for strategic road priorities.

“The reason we did that instead of tying it to a single project is that we want to really look at investing that $6 million into projects that will encourage more commercial/industrial development and council is being very deliberate about ensuring we have the finds available to create new opportunities for businesses to locate in Grande Prairie,” said Given.

While housing is a major problem for much of the Peace, the Grande Prairie area is only now starting to see that sector impacted.

Where 18 months ago vacancy rates were close to 15 per cent, said Rogan, they are now close to four or five percent, and the cost of housing has remained relatively static.

“The world economy of course will have an impact on our region depending on how dramatic it is so everybody watches with some sense of unease what’s going on in Europe. I’m concerned that people will see world events and that will impact their confidence locally and I’m very confident that our local economy will remain strong for the next three to five years,” said Given.

“Our councils in the region are all experiencing the need for more staff, the need to construct more facilities whether they be water, wastewater, roads and (it will be a challenge to) find the dollars to do that particularly in times when prices will be escalating and manpower is hard to find, and trying to keep your tax rates competitive and attractive but still provide that needed infrastructure,” said Rogan.

 

VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA – Ledcor Resources and Transportation, a division of the Ledcor Group of Companies, announced that it has taken delivery of 12 new barges to inaugurate its marine transportation service to Howe Sound Pulp and Paper and that it has acquired Renew Resources, a BC based company that specializes in the processing of wood fibre in the interior. Renew produces the woodchips and hog fuel that will be transported to customers by truck and Ledcor’s new barges.

Ledcor Resources and Transportation is the latest diversification initiative of the Ledcor Group. Its acquisition of marine vessels and Renew Resources represents an investment of $70 million, making it the only company of its kind to provide all of the related supply chain services from fibre sourcing and harvesting to the processing and delivery of that fibre to end users. The company is based in BC and employs 200, which includes a significant number of First Nations people with whom the company has also formed a number of strategic alliances.

Paul McElligott, former president & CEO of TimberWest for 10 years and, prior to that, president & CEO of the BC Rail Group of Companies for 10 years, recently joined Ledcor to head up the company’s resources and transportation division, which also includes ownership of a regional airline, partial interest in a fractional jet ownership and charter business, and marine terminals.

“This was a very deliberate, strategic decision that Ledcor made to further diversify into the resource and transportation sectors in our province”, said McElligott. “We have positioned ourselves to be the only company that has the capacity to meet all of our customer’s needs. It is one stop shopping for the sourcing of fibre, processing of it to create woodchips (for pulp and paper mills) or hog fuel (for power or pellet plants), and providing the highway and/or marine transportation services to deliver products to customers. This type of vertical integration creates efficiencies in the supply chain”, he said.

Howe Sound Pulp & Paper president & CEO Mac Palmiere commented: “Renew Resources has played an important role in HSPP becoming a significant renewable clean power generator. BC Hydro’s Integrated Power Office helped HSPP identify renewable power generation and energy conservation opportunities that enabled the mill to qualify for $36.7 million in Pulp and Paper Green Transformation Program funding from Natural Resources Canada.

This investment and our relationship with Ledcor Resources & Transportation is vitally important in helping secure over 500 jobs at HSPP”.

BC’s Premier, Christy Clark was on hand at the announcement where she commended Ledcor for its strategic vision to form a company that creates employment and meets the needs for processed wood fibre in the province, while generating a stable fuel supply for BC’s growing green energy sector. The Premier also acknowledged that Ledcor’s investment is a perfect example of how the government’s job strategy is fostering economic growth in BC.

Mr. McElligott concluded by saying: “This announcement today is good news for the economy and BC shippers of resource products, good news for continued relationship building between First Nations and the Ledcor Group, and good news for the BC environment. Ledcor Resources and Transportation is creating significant employment opportunities to utilize and create value from marginal wood fibre that would have otherwise been slash burned or left on the forest floor.

“Instead of doing nothing about a waste disposal problem that compromises our environment, we are producing woodchips and hog fuel for pulp and paper making and green energy production. We are also adding more choice for customers in the marine transportation sector with a Canadian owned service provider and we believe a more competitive marketplace is a good thing”, he said.

The Ledcor Group of Companies is a BC based, employee-owned conglomerate that operates across North America. It employs more than 7,000 people, 2200 of whom live and work in BC. Founded in 1947, the company expanded steadily and today has capabilities in a variety of areas including commercial construction, industrial construction, contract mining, road building and highway maintenance, pipeline construction and maintenance, property development, environmental solutions, technical services for the telecommunications and energy sectors, and resources and transportation including tugs, barges, and airlines.

 


Innovation continues to be an important part of the way we need to conduct business. All too often however, we think of innovation as being new technology or technology commercialization – developing that new product and getting it into the marketplace.
Innovation is also different from invention. Relatively speaking, new inventions are few and far between while innovation – the combination of existing ideas or things for new purposes – is more common.
Scott Berkun, in his recent book “The Myths of Innovation” describes what he calls the ten myths of innovation. What follows are the first five myths, and my commentary on each.
Myth #1 – The myth of epiphany.  Quite simply, while the ‘eureka’ moment is what many innovators seek, it is most often only the moment when the last piece of the puzzle was put in place. Or maybe it was the original inspiration. But rarely does the finished product appear in that moment. It is only after much hard work that the innovation is complete.
Myth #2 – We understand the history of innovation.  The presence of a dominant new technology is often just the latest step in the development of many versions of that technology.  For instance, the domination of VHS over Beta only to be rendered obsolete by CDs which was then replaced by MP3s and so forth. It is easy to be clueless about what came before – just ask a teenager about dial telephone. You know what they say about cultures that don’t know their history.
Myth #3 – There is a method for innovation.  Essentially what Berkun says is that innovation starts by starting – it doesn’t really matter where. There isn’t a method as much as “there are patterns and frameworks that can be useful”. Work hard in a specific direction and or hard work with direction change is normal. Many innovations begin with curiosity, driven by the quest for wealth or money, or out of necessity.  “While there are no maps, there are attitudes that help.”  So, find the paths of innovation that work for you and get help with the others.
Myth #4 – People love new ideas.  “Every great idea in history has the big, red stamp of rejection on its face.”  So … perseverance is a necessity, but remember, becoming delusional about your idea can be catastrophic to your financial position. Managing your fears, excitement and doubt is imperative while you develop your product. While you may love your new idea expecting that there will be many roadblocks, setbacks and disappointments when you start will enable you to manage those setbacks more realistically.  “Frustration + innovation = entrepreneurship.”
Myth #5 – The lone inventor.  “Who invented the light bulb? No, it wasn’t Thomas Edison. Two lesser-known inventor, Humphrey Davy and Joseph Swan both developed working electric lights well before Edison.” Don’t think you can do it alone, because you can’t.  Managing your help is the secret to success.
Next month, the remaining five myths of innovation as described by Scott Berkun.
Dr. Bruce Rutley is the Director of the Centre for Research & Innovation at Grande Prairie Regional College.

 

A Heat Trace System That’s Greening Things Up.
In the North, heat is a commodity valued by both residents and industry. While it is easy enough to heat a home, there are locations where heat is needed but not as readily available and providing it comes at a cost to the bottom line as well as the environment.

Cataflow Technologies has a solution. Seven years of development have produced a technology that converts energy from its gas form to heated glycol and electricity. And while there are many potential applications ranging from in-floor heating to RVs, the company is currently focusing on industrial users that need heat for flow lines, pipe lines, well heads, BOP’s, separators, tanks (including production, propane and pop tanks), tank farm manifolds, buildings, battery banks and walkways.
“The biggest thing about the technology is that we’re utilizing a flameless heater and what we’re doing is we’re harvesting the heat out of there and converting it over to a more friendly type of medium,” said Cataflow business manager Delbert Benterud.
“The other interesting thing we’re doing is we’re generating electricity as well so it’s completely self-powering. All that you need in order to utilize this is either natural gas or propane.”
And in smaller quantities than other products, he added. It’s efficiency allows the larger unit burns six litres of propane a day and the smaller one burns three.
One of the biggest advantages in the age of lower emissions and environmental accountability is that “pretty much everything” is burned off. Testing showed close to zero emissions on Cataflow’s equipment. There is an extremely small amount of methane unburned.
“You can run this inside your building safely without it being vented to the outside,” said Benterud.
“When you look at the CO2 emissions of what they’re doing out there in order to achieve the heat trace that they have right now they will vent atmosphere, on average, 2-million cubes a year, which is about 750 tonnes of CO2 emissions, which translates in carbon tax form to $15/tonne.”
The possible savings can amount to $10,000/year – and that doesn’t account for the long -term environmental costs.
Inside the stand-alone heater box, glycol from a reservoir is moved through the proprietary heat exchangers while at the same time, electricity is being generated which powers an electric pump that moves the glycol. The only moving part on the equipment is the DC motor and the flow is even, without high pressure.
At present, models are being built with the focus on heating but in the future, said Benterud, models will be built that produce excess power of 40 and 60 watts initially. When that happens, workers could tie their instruments into that instead of having to have a generator to create the needed power. They newer models are about a year away from being released, said Benterud.
Some units have already been in the field for two years and some have been located in “problem sites” and Benterud said, they have performed “very well”.
“We’re now at the point of CSA approval…and we’re ready to move into production and we’re ramping up to do that now,” said Benterud.
Into the future, the technology could be applied to home heating, commercial heating, RVs and campers.  The possibility for those applications is promising, particularly the capacity to generate surplus energy to power batteries and other devises.
The company has also been invited to participate in a McMaster University high efficiency home project over the next two years.
“We need to explore that a bit more…as of yet we don’t know everything that will be involved in that but it’s very exciting,” said Benterud.
“I believe it is the way of the future. It’s just a matter of getting things properly sized for the applications.”

Cataflow Technologies is a Grande Prairie company. They can be reached at 780-532-7070 or through their website at www.cataflowtech.com

 

Everything new comes with expectations and comparisons. It’s human nature to look at something new and have questions about how it will perform, whether it will satisfy, what changes might happen or if it’s even worth having.
When it comes to a new pair of pants the implications are not likely earth shattering. If they don’t measure up to the expectations then tossing them aside is not a huge deal. It comes down to one person, one opinion, and that person has all the control they could ask for. There’s not much fear attached to the process.
It’s another story when what’s new is a provincial leader – two in fact.
Both Alberta and British Columbia are now dealing with new premiers – and with that, all the expectations, comparisons and questions.
At the very least there will, or should be expectations of new policies and initiatives to address the needs of business and industry.
Questions of how those changes will deal with issues of recruitment and retention will be at the forefront of more than a few minds. Part and parcel of that issue will be dealing with the need for housing and infrastructure in the North.
There is also the ongoing issue of the environment. In Alberta the oil sands pose a number of challenges and across the region, issues of fracing and water use are still getting a lot of attention.
Dealing with royalties, subsidies, and ensuring that the communities that generate the money get to benefit from their resources could end up being a little like juggling with knives.
Whether the new premiers will address these issues well, balancing the needs of communities and individuals with the needs of business and industry, remains to be seen.
Politicians are not a pair of pants. They don’t need to fit just one person, but many. If they are to satisfy the best expectations of the people they represent, those people need to ask their questions of the premiers and be prepared to offer solutions that recognize it’s not a one size fits all world.

 

Located 486 km northwest of Edmonton and 195 km northeast of Grande Prairie, Peace River and the surrounding area are perhaps best known for their scenic vistas and outdoor opportunities however, Peace River is more than just a pretty face.


A thriving regional service and trade center, the Peace River area has a vibrant business community and a growing industrial base. Retail, government, oil and gas and a solid home-based business segment are all part of the dynamic mix that supports and contributes to the area’s appeal.
“We know that we are on the verge of great opportunity in our region and yet Peace River is an interesting place – we’ve been on that verge of opportunity for a long, long time,” said Peace River Chamber of Commerce president Stephen Woodburn.
While there is an air of anticipation about the future, growth has been slow and steady blending expansion and stability for the community. They are “open for business” Woodburn said and new ventures are always welcome.
“I think that our business community really understands the area. We are regional thinkers. We’re not just focused on the town of Peace River for example…What comes to our area will not just support and benefit Peace River but it will support and benefit the region,” said Woodburn.
“I think that’s a key factor that needs to be recognized.”
There are also challenges. Getting specific information about what’s in development isn’t always as easy as Woodburn would like.
“We’ve been talking about nuclear energy in our region and that’s been very quiet now for some time and that’s fine but it sure would be nice to know from the powers that be ‘why is it so quiet?’”
“Sometimes that lack of communication, whether it’s from the oil companies or the energy industry in general, is one of the biggest challenges we face.”
And as it is in many Northern communities, Woodburn recognizes the business sector is a close-knit group, able to work together for common goals, and with the community commitment to be strongly supportive of volunteerism and community building.
There is also a strong sense of culture and heritage. Named Cultureville 2011, Peace River now has wide spread recognition for being a leading cultural centre of the country.
At the confluence of the Peace, Smoky and Heart rivers, there is plenty of history to be uncovered as well as a chance to appreciate the valley and all that it offers. Outlooks and trails provide access to the natural beauty of hills and valley as well as an opportunity for recreations such as walking, hiking, biking and photography. Parks provide families a place to gather.
While it is easy to stop and appreciate the beauty, that too is an opportunity for industrial growth.
“The beauty of the Peace River Valley and the area as a whole is certainly on the radar for tourism…and the Chamber of Commerce recognizes that and we encourage travellers to stop and make it part of their travel plans,” said Woodburn.