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Personal Reflections: Todd Hirsch, Adam Legge and Brett Wilson on 2013

Three prominent local business people look back at their own top stories from the year that was

Dec 2, 2013
The Other Kind of Economic Growth

By Todd Hirsch, Senior Economist at ATB Financial

mug_hirschNot too bad this year,” the farmer said, trying not to smile. He was answering a question about how his harvest was looking. For a farmer, “not too bad” is about as good a review as you’ll ever get. In non-farm language, it translates as: totally awesome!

I believe the biggest economic news story of the year in Alberta – and one that hasn’t received much attention – is the fantastic conditions for crop agriculture. Prices for both canola and wheat are good (although they did tumble in the late summer on rising U.S. supply), but the real kicker is the size and quality of the expected harvest. Across most sections of the province, well-timed heat and dryness carried through to late September, resulting in near perfect harvest conditions.

Crop farmers had a record cash year in 2012 – at $6.3 billion, it was more than double the 20-year average of $3.0 billion. But 2013 is set once again to see another record set, even if prices are somewhat lower. Statistics Canada reports that in the first quarter of 2013, crop receipts in the province were 17 per cent higher than the record-setting 2012. And given the expectations of bumper crops, it is easy to see how 2013 will be setting the new high bar. After four decades of long, slow decline, crop agriculture is once again claiming its more traditional position as an economic leader in Alberta. That’s particularly helpful since agriculture does represent some true economic diversity for the province.

Looking In, Looking Out

By Adam Legge, President Of The Calgary Chamber Of Commerce

mug_leggeIn 2013, the world took notice of Alberta for more than our oil sands, and Albertans got some increased perspective on our place in the world. Target moved in to take over the Zellers space across Canada and made Alberta its head office. Meanwhile Nordstrom announced it too liked the look of Alberta, as did J.Crew. Nexen was finally approved to become a Chinese-owned energy company, setting a precedent as to how foreign investment into our natural resource sector will be handled. Trans-Canada – uncomfortable waiting for U.S. President Barack Obama to make a decision on Keystone – pushed for and got Energy East going to supply Canadian oil to markets via the Atlantic seaboard.

A handful of Calgary entrepreneurs showed our province’s famous can-do attitude and got together to put Alberta on the pro golf map through the Shaw Charity Classic. Cycling road racing is a hot ticket these days and Alberta captured some of that action with the Tour of Alberta. Early in the year we recognized just how globally interconnected our energy market is when the bitumen bubble reared its head to make Alberta stop and take notice that WTI can’t be our sole benchmark of “health.” Yes, there is a world beyond our borders and

Alberta saw that in spades in 2013. For better or worse, the world is paying attention.

Alberta Shows its Spirit

By W. Brett Wilson, President of Prairie Merchant and Chairman of Canoe Financial

mug_wilsonThe biggest story of 2013 wasn’t really the June floods in southern Alberta, but rather the way entire communities pulled together to produce an extraordinary outcome from this incredible tragedy.

Many businesses struggled for weeks with operational challenges – uninhabitable offices, intermittent electricity, lost revenue – but what was most impressive was the level of patience, tolerance, and acceptance displayed by employers, employees, retailers, and customers alike. While businesses were working to restore operations, they experienced very little hostility or grief from a generally accepting and understanding public and other businesses. I would suggest our prairie work ethic and measured response to adversity – along with very transparent and communicative government leadership – is what helped us recover relatively quickly, and weather (no pun intended) the situation so well.

In fact, our overall level of acceptance and tolerance is something other regions might wisely try to cultivate themselves when facing adversity.

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