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Friday, February 14, 2014

Good Neighbours

We all know that rapid expansion of Alberta's economy has greatly accelerated the demand for skilled and highly qualified labour in numerous sectors. Our steel fabrication industry is particularly important for energy industry projects and is one such area where the labour shortage is pressing.

Port Alberta Director Don Oborowski, CEO of Waiward Steel, joined me on reciprocal trade mission to lay the foundations for a near-term deal between institutions of higher education in Idaho, Washington, and Alberta in order to develop a pipeline of qualified labour arriving with Alberta based curriculum and apprenticeship training. Preliminary discussions between American and Canadian institutions of advanced education have resulted in this exciting opportunity to put a real dent in a key labour shortage in our region. This opportunity is the result of a trade mission to encourage bilateral corporate investment between Alberta and neighbour states.

Between 2007 and 2011, Alberta's exports to Washington and Idaho were worth more than $10 billion. It's wise to have good relations with your biggest business partners. When Mexico voted to allow foreign direct investment into key elements of its energy industry, Alberta's intra-hemispheric trading relationships were set to expand faster than ever. NAFTA countries already account for approximately 25% of global GDP. Our intra-hemispheric economic growth, combined with abundant energy and stabilized hemispheric labour costs, will accelerate "nearshoring activity", meaning a mutually beneficial transfer of business to a neighbouring country.

These developments, combined with global economic recovery, will increase our hemispheric manufacturing capacity. Ameliorating labour shortages in our key industries will help our regional economy expand while enabling Albertans to export more products to neighbours and the rest of the world.