Director of Economic Development and Tourism
in Strathcona County
Mr. Gabinet, tell me about yourself.
My name is Gerry Gabinet and I am Director of Economic Development and Tourism in Strathcona County. I have been in the economic development field for approximately 20 years. I have been working 15 years with Strathcona County and 4 years in Parkland County. I currently have a team of 9 people involved in economic development back in Strathcona County. I am currently First Vice-President of EDAC (Economic Developers Association of Canada). This year, 2018 I am becoming President of the Association. I am also one of the past directors for the Economic Developers of Alberta and also past president of PNEDC (Pacific Northwest Economic Developers). I am also on the Board of Governors for an organization called the “Commissioners of Northern Alberta”. This is a group that tries to find a job for retired military people. Last year we did approximately a 60 million dollars’ worth in business across Northern Alberta and Northern Canada. This is the third time I have been to Ukraine, and I am looking forward to the conference tomorrow.
Mr. Gabinet, what is the primary economic engine in Strathcona County?
Our primary industry is hydrocarbons and petrochemical processing down there: taking oil and gas, adding value to these products. We have three actual oil refineries in Strathcona County. We count for about 67% of the refining that happens about Western Canada. On a daily basis our three refineries process about 458 000 barrels of oil making products such as gasoline, diesel, aviation fuel, asphalt shingles. For example, the jet fuel which they use at Toronto international airport is produced at Shell Scotford refinery and shipped on real cars all the way to Toronto. The one for the Edmonton airport and Vancouver airport also come from our refineries. That number is actually reflected in GDP from across all of Alberta. That counts for about $18 billion of dollars per year out of GDP for oil and gas but reported in head office. It is pretty amazing. We have a lot of land area that is associated with Strathсona County. It is about 1580 square kilometers.
I believe the oil industry must have an adverse impact on the environment in Strathcona County?
We have a lot of procedures and processes that are in place for the production of hydrocarbons. Each of our refineries comply to the Alberta legislation, and the Canadian legislation as well. We also have a group of air monitoring stations so people can get real-time reports of the ingredients that are put into the atmosphere.
How does Strathcona County do investment promotion?
We run the «You Can campaign», which is a really unique program that we put together the last couple of years. This campaign is a combination of print advertising, advertising on social media, such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and also some audio-visual recordings of what we have. We make commercials for local businesses. For example, we have one campaign that is about a chocolatier. Her name is Jacueline Jacek. She makes chocolate. She started out in her own house and graduated into a commercial kitchen. Part of her aspect is that she has got social conscience, so she donates part of her profits that she has from selling her chocolates to local charities. She also sources cocoa beans in a sustainable manner both in South America and Central America. This campaign has helped us attract a lot of new industries. For example, one of the newest companies that we attracted through our foreign direct investment program has made decision to build a firm called Inter Pipeline. They are going to be taking propane as a feed stock turning into propolyene, and the next value step is Polypropolene (PP). Polyproplene are little plastic pellets from which you make a lot of different products. Depending on a type of product it can be anything – from coffee cups to clothing. And, of course, all of these coffee cups and clothing can be recyclable. The value of that particular project is $4.1 billion Canadian dollars. That project was announced last year. This is the web site which explains the process: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cp6a-vBcpTc
What kind of incentives do you use to attract investors to your community?
I am on the Board of Directors for an organization called ICSC – International Council Shopping Centre. We have a lot of major conferences during the year. We use that conferences and real estate brokers that are attending to those conference to attract new retailers to our community. We do that by doing a study that is called a “Retail Market Study”. We have a group that actually does data gathering, talking about where people buy their products from. We do a lot of studies that we use for our petrochemical industry. Under the MGA – Municipal Government Act – we are not allowed to give out direct incentives from Strathcona County. However, the province of Alberta and the Government of Canada can do some incentives. For example, this past year the government of Alberta had an incentive program called the Petrochemical Diversification Program. They have the fund of $500 billion dollars that is worth of tax credits that could go to a firm that would build a Propane dehydrogenation (PDH) plant. Inter Pipeline will receive $200 million of tax credits from the provincial government for that particular program.
Companies have to make many important decisions when they are searching for a site to locate or relocate their business, or even enlarge their business. What are the critical factors in the site selection process?
There are about ten top factors that people are looking at when they look for sites. That includes availability of skilled labor, highway accessibility, quality of life, what kind of community do you have (what kind of schools do you have), political process (do you have a good council), crime rate, recreational facilities, the construction costs (how much does it cost to build a brand-new building, or to lease existing buildings), labor costs, how close you are to major markets in North America and around the world. So, for us in Strathcona County, we have access to a market of about 1.4 million people. We also have a good road network. We can drive and get access to a couple of airports, and we are doing pretty good that way.
How do you engage with the business community in your region? What do you do to keep your finger on the pulse of their activity and retain business in your community?
We have specific strategies that are aimed at attracting business and growing business. One of the things that we do on a monthly basis is that we make business calls. We also attend a lot of business conferences. We work very closely with our chamber of commerce. There is a business conference in San-Antonio, Texas, that we are going to in a couple of weeks. That is the world’s largest petroleum manufacturing conference (AFPM). They are expecting over 4000 people to attend. There are meetings with people that we would like to attract to our particular community. Also, we want to find out from our existing businesses if they are looking to expand. I talked earlier about the big refinery that we have in our area. Every five years our refineries have something called turn-around. They shut down the refinery and replace piping and electronics. They spend over 100 million dollars on local goods and services. So, for every primary job that is in the oil and gas manufacturing, 5 other jobs are created in the economy around Alberta. That is called the multiplier. It is key for us to understand what is happening in our businesses, in our industry and for our small businesses so that we can help train them, attract them and make sure they understand things that are going back and forth. And we also celebrate success with them. One of the things that I have done for my trip down here is I brought chocolate from our local manufacturer. I will also take some chocolate from here back to her to compare.