Opportunity In Crisis

With all of the uncertainty in Alberta surrounding the Keystone Pipeline and the oil industry, part three in our series on the RAE Housing Forecast Seminar 2021 is a welcome look forward into 2021 with an eye on trends that are keeping existing businesses in growth-mode, and why Edmonton has an incredible amount of potential to become an economic powerhouse for a wide variety of emerging and established industries many of us have never even considered.

“Over the past year, I’ve seen a lot of uncertainty, hardship and loss, definitely,” admitted Lynette Tremblay, Vice President, Strategy & Innovation, at Edmonton Global (the economic development organization, not the local news outlet). “But I’ve also seen triumph and incredible achievements that, I think, should be celebrated.”

Some Positive Events in 2020

To think that anything positive happened last year might be shocking, but sometimes it’s good to take stock of the positive. Tremblay highlights a few of those celebration-worthy events that took place in the Edmonton region this year as:

-       Over 4000 new businesses started up.

-       U of A researcher Dr. Michael Houghton won the Nobel prize. 

-       Five people received the Order of Canada. 

-       Local tech companies Drivewise and Jobber raised over 70 million dollars in growth funding.

-       Tevosol Transplant Technologies, another local tech company, created a technology that preserves donor organs for a longer period of time and won the NASA iTech competition. 

“I truly believe that there is opportunity in every crisis, even this one,” she said.

Over the last two decades, our global economy has been transitioning from being a traditional industrial economy, to being a knowledge-economy, although Tremblay makes it clear that that doesn’t mean there is no longer a need for industrial products, but rather that the value of intangible assets like patents, brands, data, and software, have been far out-pacing the value of tangible assets such as machinery equipment, land, and other inventory.

And despite the demand for more digital-friendly ways of doing business, not every business had been keen to jump aboard. Tremblay gives the analogy of when many people held-out on transitioning from VHS tapes into DVD’s to illustrating the digital technology hold-out that had been seen from some businesses, non-profits, and government sectors in the years before the pandemic. People were wary of making the switch to DVD’s because they wanted to be cautious that the new technology was not just a passing fad, much like the holdouts we’ve seen in business. Covid-19 forced many of those organizations to adopt the digital direction the world seems to be moving in.

“There is no going back,” said Tremblay. “And to those who keep saying ‘I can’t wait until things go back to normal,’ trust me I get it, but I have to say… throw out your VCR already. When the world changes around us, we must change with it, or be left behind.”

Instead of lamenting the past and the idea that there’s likely no return to what normal used to look like, Tremblay encourages us to examine the trends, especially in Edmonton, so we can lead the charge when it comes to shaping this new reality, this ‘new normal.’

Investor Trends

For investors, this means spending less on bricks and mortar and more on research and development, which at first glance, might seem like less workers, but Tremblayinvestor-trends-edmonton-2021
insists that people are crucial to the design and maintenance of these new initiatives.

Talent, she says, has become the investment driver for many investment decisions. Where goes the talent, so goes the investment.

“And that’s where we have an advantage, actually,” said Tremblay. “Not only do we have the talent, but we can attract it. Our high-quality of life, low cost of living, and diverse housing options are key parts to attracting that top-talent to our region.”

Another trend that industries need to be cognizant of is the consumer commitment to virtual experiences, buying local, and online shopping. And when the floodgates of spending commences, Tremblay explains that there will be a spending trend towards technology, health, and- especially- home. Our homes have become the place from which we not only live, but also work, and the place where we broadcast our lives to coworkers and family members.  

“These spending trends translate into industry trends,” said Tremblay, “and right now we’re seeing that companies that are not only surviving but thriving through this pandemic are those that are innovative and adaptive, and some who even go as far as to create entirely new products. They diversify.”

The shift in pharmaceutical industries to start shifting towards nutraceuticals (anything you find in a health-food store), and companies who previously had specialized in the production of meat now turning their attention towards plant-based meat-alternatives are great examples of companies understanding the trends and diversifying to get ahead of them. 

“These shifts have also opened new doors for the Edmonton region,” explains Tremblay. “We can now compete in areas where we couldn’t before. This is more than hope, these are concrete opportunities where we can compete to win.

What set's Alberta apart?

unique-selling-propositionThe Edmonton region, she says, has so many things going for it. We have both a thriving urban metropolis, and access to tons of rich agricultural land which is a huge asset for any companies looking to diversify in the area of plant-based proteins. 

Another surprising thing Tremblay shared was that we in the Edmonton region are also one of the few Canadian jurisdictions certified to produce, and is already producing, drugs for human consumption. We also have an airport for the shipping and handling of pharmaceuticals, along with world-class talent and equipment from the petrochemical sectors that can be used for pharmaceutical manufacturing.   

Along with these amazing attributes our region offers is that we are the only jurisdiction among our competitors who have world-class expertise in Artificial Intelligence and a massive scale “Energy cluster,” as well as the largest single health-authority in Canada, things that Tremblay says make us a prime location for AI applications in energy and health sectors, which are two of the fastest growing markets.

These phenomenal regional assets, along with our market demand and community make us a unique and attractive location for investors to consider.

“There is opportunity in crisis, there is hope in despair, and, honestly, there is a fire inside us,” said Tremblay. “We have a great story to tell, so I say let’s tell it to the world.”

Posted by Corey Sylvester on


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