The province of Saskatchewan in Western Canada has undergone a remarkable period of growth and prosperity, in spite of global economic challenges across the world. A treasure chest of resources, coupled with a diverse and remarkably robust export-based economy plugged into global markets, has made it a magnet for international investment. Saskatchewan is expected to exceed C$15 billion CAD (US$14.6 billion) in total investment for the first time ever in 2010, and its 5.5 percent growth rate on 2010 total investment is third highest in Canada. The province's growth rate on private investment is expected to be fourth highest in Canada this year. Total investment has more than doubled since 2004.
Two major examples of Saskatchewan's broad range of opportunities are the proposed Integrated Energy Complex and its award-winning research park, Innovation Place:
The Integrated Energy Complex
Saskatchewan is an energy powerhouse that punches far above its weight class. It is the second-biggest oil producer in the country - fifth among all American states and Canadian provinces - while possessing the richest uranium deposits in the world, and some of the largest. But diversification is a Saskatchewan specialty. With just 3 percent of Canada's population, it accounts for 28 percent of the nation's primary energy production and has a range of energy sources, including crude oil, natural gas, coal, uranium, hydro, wind, and biofuels, which few jurisdictions can match.
And it is seizing upon this advantage. At Belle Plaine, between the provincial capital of Regina and the neighboring city of Moose Jaw, there is a potash solution mine and a urea-based fertilizer plant connected to a web of existing infrastructure: several major pipelines, the Trans-Canada Highway, the provincial electrical and natural gas network, and both the Canadian Pacific and Canadian National Railways. There are also locally accessible skilled professional and trades labor pools and a nearby water source at Buffalo Pound Lake.
The provincial government sees all of these assets creating a potentially ideal site for its proposed Integrated Energy Complex (IEC). It would be nothing less than the largest economic development opportunity in the history of Saskatchewan - and the province's Minister of Enterprise Ken Cheveldayoff, who is also responsible for Trade, has been pitching the idea at home and abroad.
"It's a big idea and it's grabbing people's attention in a big way. What we're envisioning is an integrated complex, which includes a world-class heavy oil upgrader, a polygeneration facility, a refinery, and a petrochemical production plant," said Cheveldayoff. "The integrated synergies really tip the scales in favor of this concept. It's an idea whose time has come, and we've been actively discussing it and inviting interest. The interest is there at the international level. We're just at the initial stages, of course, but it's already building momentum, and our sense is that it will end up being one of the crown jewels of not only the energy sector but our provincial economy."
World-class R&D: Innovation Place
Creative thinking and pushing the envelope is par for the course at Innovation Place, the province's cutting-edge research park twinned in Regina and Saskatoon. Innovation Place was recently awarded the 2009 Outstanding Science/Research Park of the Year by the Association of University Research Parks, an international organization with 180 member parks.
The 172 tenants of Innovation Place's two parks employ more than 4,700 people and collectively contributed more than C$700 million (US$681 million) to Saskatchewan's economy in 2009. The economic impact estimate is based on an annual survey that showed an 11 percent increase over the previous year.
Innovation Place in Saskatoon is part of an internationally recognized cluster of expertise in agricultural research with specialities in genomics, new crop varieties, nutraceuticals and functional foods, and animal health. The cluster also includes the University of Saskatchewan, Canada's only synchrotron - the Canadian Light Source, the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization (VIDO), the International Vaccine Centre (InterVac), Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada's Saskatoon Research Centre, POS Pilot Plant, the National Research Council's Plant Biotechnology Institute, and the Saskatchewan Research Council.
Innovation Place is home to a variety of businesses specializing in the commercial application of biotech research. These range from large multinational organizations like Dow Agro Sciences Canada and Viterra to smaller organizations like Prairie Plant Systems and Quantum Genetics, both of which have commercialized technology initially developed at the University of Saskatchewan.
At Innovation Place in Regina there is a similar cluster of expertise around carbon-capture technology with the Petroleum Technology Research Centre (PTRC), International Test Centre for Carbon Capture, several University of Regina research centers including the Office of Energy and Environment, and the Faculty of Engineering. Commercial ventures specializing in carbon-capture technology are also located in the research park.
"Both parks were intentionally developed to take advantage of the strengths of their nearby universities and to have established business leaders operating side by side with start-up companies," said Austin Beggs, the vice president of Corporate Relations for Innovation Place. "Being part of a cluster of expertise means our tenants are surrounded by like-minded individuals - entrepreneurs, scientists, and researchers from the universities, government, and the private sector, making it that much easier to find synergies and collaborative opportunities, which can lead to amazing innovations."
The IEC and Innovation Place are only two of the many assets in Saskatchewan's economic portfolio. The province offers a superb package, which includes a wealth of infrastructure and advanced technology, a positive overall business environment, and a government fully supportive of innovation, growth, and expansion.
How superb? Observers like Anthony Marino, president and CEO of Baytex Energy Trust, aren't mincing words. He says, in a nutshell, "Saskatchewan has the best operating and fiscal environment in North America right now."