County plans for growth, prosperity and international markets
By: Viola Pruss
| Posted: Wednesday, Feb 12, 2014 06:00 am
Sturgeon County is planning for growth and prosperity.
Those were the words of Mayor Tom Flynn while speaking at the county’s economic development breakfast on Friday.
Flynn said economic development will remain one of the main focus areas for the county in coming years, and his council will continue to work on creating a positive environment for new and existing business.
“I believe business prefers to invest where there is opportunity, where there is a positive environment and where government works together to help business be successful,” he said.
One of the main projects expected to continue moving the local economy forward is the North West upgrader, said Flynn. The county remains committed to the refinery project, expecting it to bring long-term sustainability and a high quality of life to residents and county neighbours, he said.
The county is also planning a number of new servicing initiatives and infrastructure changes to support industrial growth and the development of the Sturgeon Valley, he said. Among them is a revised area structure plan for Villeneuve Airport, which is now in the planning phase, he said.
“As part of this process we are working with the Edmonton International Airport authorities as one of the key stakeholders,” he said. “We will be working with them on a long-term strategy for the development of the airport lands and co-ordinate growth for the rest of the hamlet.”
Other projects include working with Alberta Transportation on solving road issues such as the intersection of Highways 37, 16 and 825, he said. The county is also allocating dollars to the construction of new roads and their maintenance, including the reconstruction of Starkey Road and finishing paving work on Cardiff Road, he said.
Sturgeon County Industrial Park is expected to grow by another 982 acres in 2014 (last year, the county had allocated 644 acres to its growth). Flynn said the county is also completing an update to the park’s reservoir and upgrading its roads to better serve existing and prospective clients.
The next wave of development in the county is expected to come from Asian petrochemical companies, said Jordan Rumohr, Sturgeon County’s manager of economic development.
Rumohr said the county has hosted several of the companies in recent years. Thanks to additional lands made available in its industrial park, the county will be able to field new inquiries and potential investment deals, he said.
“We are getting a lot of international interest. In a lot of cases even more than we are dealing with domestically,” he said. “We are also working with a number of different companies from all over the world … and there is continued interest in the shale gas potential.”
Guest speaker Paul Tsounis congratulated the county on investing time and money to bringing in the North West refinery and new investment opportunities from around the world. Tsounis is the director of Energy Economics, Markets and Forecasting with the Alberta government.
He said that the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) has dominated the world supply for crude and gas for the longest time. Now that organization, with many of its countries located in the Middle East, is indicating a decrease in supply.
That provided new opportunities for other markets to take over, he said. He stressed, however, that Alberta should move oil and gas within its own borders rather than relying on the United States, which is dealing with environmental concerns and flat energy demand.
“The Sturgeon refinery is not just a piece of machinery. It’s a market,” he said. “It’s another market for our crude.”