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Alberta: It's Irresistible

Aug/Sep 07
"It is an exciting time to be in Alberta," explains Iris Evans, Minister of Employment, Immigration, and Industry. "We have a debt-free province, an abundance of natural resources, a positive business climate, a diverse population, and an innovative spirit."

Alberta is in the midst of the strongest period of economic growth ever recorded by a Canadian province. In 2006, Alberta's economy grew by 6.8 percent. That tops an average of over 4 percent growth per year over the past decade, the highest rate in Canada. Looking ahead for this year, forecasters expect the province's economic growth to continue to lead the country.

A Magnet for Investment
Although Alberta accounts for only about 10 percent of Canada's population, the province is a workhorse in the Canadian economy, accounting for almost 17 percent of Canada's GDP.

Alberta is a trading and exporting province ideal for investment. In 2006, Alberta enjoyed the highest economic growth of any province, $90 billion in exports, $75 billion in investment, a record low 3.4 percent unemployment rate, and an employment growth rate of 4.8 percent (86,300 net new jobs).

One of the provincial government's priorities is to build a stronger Alberta by maintaining a strong business climate where entrepreneurship is valued and investment is encouraged. Alberta has a lot to offer, including the lowest overall taxes in Canada; no sales tax, plus no capital or payroll taxes; a track record of financial success demonstrated by 14 straight balanced budgets; and the unique status of having no provincial debt.

A significant contributor to Alberta's GDP is the oil and gas industry, but you may be surprised to hear that it accounts for just 28 percent of total GDP. Other industries have emerged as strong contributors, such as finance, manufacturing, and business and technology services.

It's All Natural
Alberta is blessed with natural advantages, which have formed the foundation of the province's thriving economy. These include:

• An abundance of energy reserves that fuel a thriving oil and gas industry

• An abundance of forest reserves to responsibly meet the needs of the forest products industry

• Excellent farmland, which supports world-class agricultural production

• Clean air and water, unmatched scenery, and culturally diverse communities with a quality of life second to none

There is no doubt Alberta is known for its oil and gas resources. The province is the world's third-largest supplier of gas, and its total reserves of crude oil are second only to those of Saudi Arabia.

Since the mid 1990s, expansion of Alberta's oil sands has been nothing short of breathtaking. By the end of 2007, more than $70 billion will have been spent on oil sands projects. Oil sands production is expected to more than triple current production of one million barrels a day by 2020.

The natural resources would be nothing without the human resources to take those raw materials and produce useful products. Known for its work ethic, Alberta's labor force consists of almost two million well-educated workers. In 2006, 60 percent of the labor force held a university degree or postsecondary diploma/certificate.

Driving Innovation
"We're known mostly for our raw resources - our oil and gas and wheat and beef. But Alberta is about so much more. We're about fresh ideas and fresh approaches. We're taking our natural resources and using research, ingenuity, and ideas to transform them into leading-edge products and innovations that we can market to the rest of the world," says Evans.

Alberta is focused on value-added technologies and improving productivity to work smarter, not harder. Alberta is developing new technologies that employ more efficient processes, such as using carbon dioxide to enhance oil and gas recovery, and technologies that are far less invasive in terms of their impact on the environment - such as steam-assisted gravity drainage to extract bitumen from Alberta's oil sands.

The Alberta government's research and development expenditures are among the highest per capita in Canada. The provincial government has provided $1 billion for the creation of a new Ingenuity Fund to provide long-term funding for research and development in a variety of science and engineering fields, such as nanotechnology, engineering, and environmental technologies.

The Alberta government has also built on its natural resources, human resources, and innovation by engineering an economic plan to foster a positive business climate that encourages investment, creates diversity, and empowers Alberta businesses to compete successfully around the globe. The result is one of the world's most vibrant and competitive economies now and in the future.

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