Industrial organizations look at year ahead in the heartland

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A multi-billion dollar petrochemical plant proposed for Sturgeon County is still undergoing an engineering study to determine if Sturgeon County is the place to set up shop.

Mark Plamondon, executive director with Alberta’s Industrial Heartland, presented future initiatives of the organization during a round table discussion among partners of Life in the Heartland on Jan. 18. The petrochemical plant has an estimated capital cost between $3.8 and $4.2 billion.

“After they finish their engineering study and they do their work to assess, the final investment decision will come or not,” he said.

During the meeting Plamondon said the organization was working on marketing globally to companies who could benefit from expanding to Alberta’s Industrial Heartland which includes Sturgeon County.

In an interview afterwards, he said that the heartland possesses access to low-cost natural gas resources. This puts Alberta at a competitive advantage over other provinces at drawing new business to the region. He said that the region is well-versed in industry and has established pipeline infrastructure, making it an easier sell to potential investors.

There are some disadvantages, however, in coming to Alberta.

“We have winter, so the capital cost, in some cases, the capital build will be a little more expensive because you have to winterize,” he said.

He added that Alberta is landlocked, making access to the market more costly.

During the meeting Plamondon said the ongoing uncertainty with NAFTA has increased the risk for investors looking to Alberta’s Industrial Heartland. Currently the region is competing against the U.S. Gulf Coast and Pennsylvania to draw in companies from across the globe.

“The Americans over the last, say five years, have been very aggressive at improving our competitiveness and really aligning across federal and state levels to attract large-scale investment into those regions,” he said.

The outcome of NAFTA could largely impact whether investors will continue to come to the industrial heartland, or if the organization needs to change its marketing tactics.

In 2018 Alberta’s Industrial Heartland will focus on setting up infrastructure to support industrial development. That will include working with Alberta Transportation and the Edmonton Metropolitan Region Board to promote infrastructure needs within the region.

Three other partnering organizations gathered around the boardroom table to discuss upcoming initiatives in Alberta’s Industrial Heartland.

Northeast Region Caer, Fort Air Partnerships and Northeast Capital Industrial Association also presented on what the next year holds for each organization.

Northeast Region Caer, an emergency response organization, will be starting a system that will send instant notifications to residents’ phones who are near an emergency situation. Caer’s boundaries include parts of Sturgeon County, Fort Saskatchewan, Strathcona County and Lamont County.

Fort Air Partnership, a non-profit that monitors air quality stations across Alberta’s Industrial Heartland and its surrounding area, will be sending out a portable station that can travel between municipalities that don’t have one.

The portable station will stay in each area for six months before moving to a new location, with Bon Accord slated to be the first place it parks in. The stations monitor air pollutants in parts per million.

The fourth partnering company, Northeast Capital Industrial Association, spoke on collaboration with its fellow partners in making Alberta a desirable place for investors.

Laurie Danielson, executive director with Northeast Capital Industrial Association, said what makes Alberta’s Industrial Heartland different from other industrial areas is how the four partners of Life in the Heartland work together.

“We’re committed to working together,” he said. “It also makes us attractive … you won’t find an industrial association that actually pulls industry together to talk about things that we could all do better. We do that here.”

Life in the Heartland members plan to attend an upcoming networking event on Thursday, where different industry leaders will speak on NAFTA and chemistry in a low-carbon economy.

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Dayla Lahring

Dayla Lahring joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2017. She writes about business, health, general news and features. She also contributes photographs.