Volume 15, Issue 3

Your definitive glossary for the economic downturn

Your  definitive  glossary for the economic downturn

Tough times, they are upon us. Job losses abound, wages are being frozen or cut, and in many sectors it is virtually impossible to get hired.

Fret not, friends. I am here to help.

I have been through the toughest of times. There was the time in Grade 9 when I told my parents that I was no longer interested in attending weekly Catholic mass. Their synchronized response “Well, then I guess you are no longer living in this house” did not deter me whatsoever . . . until I ended my holdout and went to church 15 minutes later.

Then there was the time in my second year of Grade 12 when I wore a massive woman’s wig for a mug shot that ran with some fellow basketball players on the back page of the first section of the Calgary Herald. My dad’s response at suppertime on the day it was published: “Thanks Rob – now my entire staff thinks that my son is a transvestite!” (Publisher’s note: my dad is actually a super nice and tolerant guy)

Then there was the time in my first year of university when, on a date with the hottest babe I could ever imagine dating, we went back to her place, her parents were out of town, and I had to pretend that I knew what I was doing.

Yes, I have survived some extremely difficult experiences. So I am kind of a big deal on the subject of emerging from perilous times with style and grace.

The key is understanding precisely what is going on, so you can formulate a strategy for success. With that in mind, I present the definitive glossary of terms related to the current economic crisis:

Layoff – a verb used to help fend off job loss when your boss comes in to your office with the “I am about to deliver really bad news” look on his face. Usage: “Hey, layoff, Man! I am just trying to pay the rent and feed my children.”

Economic downturn – a term describing a cost-saving initiative at a hotel on a business trip. Usage: “(To front-desk personnel) I would like to save a few dollars on room cleaning, so could you please do an economic downturn of the sheets and skip the chocolate on the pillow?”

Severance package – a phrase used in the organized crime disposal business when someone sleeps with the boss’s wife. Usage: “Hey Vinny, I want you to take out the garbage – and don’t forget to sever his package.”

Oil patch – a Band-Aid solution that covers up a lack of economic divergence when crude behaviour is at a high. Usage: “Hey, Alberta- don’t worry about that silly economic-diversity thing; just apply the oil patch and everything will be OK.”

New ditty – A short, repetitive song performed by someone who has just been laid off and is facing divorce and foreclosure; usually sung while running naked. Usage: “At least that crazy streaker had a positive new ditty; you could hear him yelling ‘Everything is awesome, everything is awesome,’ all the way down the street.”

Supply and demand – Natural forces that drive economic success or failure. Usage: I am going to supply you with a gun and demand that you rob a bank so we can cover our next mortgage payment.

Profits – an obsolete term that used to describe the cash earned after covering expenses. Usage: “Hey, Fred – remember when our company used to make profits? Now, we are merely prophets of economic doom.”

Economic hangover – the act of hanging over the railing of a bridge, pondering if you will ever get a job again. Usage: “That dude is experiencing an economic hangover; let’s go try to talk him off the ledge.”

Don’t jump! Unless it is at a chance to improve your economic fortune through a positive attitude and determined effort.

Proper use of technology critical in making of snow and money | Business Edge News Magazine
Volume 15, Issue 3

Proper use of technology critical in making of snow and money

Proper use of technology critical in making of snow and money

The next time you go racing down the hill on your skis or snowboard, give a thought to the folks who were out in the middle of the night grooming those runs. Or the folks who pay the electric bills to power that high tech snowmaking gear. And don’t forget the mechanical and electronic technology folks who make all this possible.

Andrew Cradduck is the guy who keeps the snow just right at Panorama Mountain Resort in British Columbia. As Director of Mountain Operations he commands the snowmaking gear and co- ordinates the business side of that operation too. “We schedule our snowmaking to coincide with our electrical billing periods,” he says,“so that we only run our air compressors and water pumps within three electrical billing periods. We even negotiated with BC Hydro to have our meter read on the 20th of each month, and historically we’ve been able to make snow starting on October 20.”

How big is the monthly variation in electrical demand at the resort? Cradduck gives this analogy: “Throughout the year, we’re driving a Toyota Corolla, but when we make snow we’re driving a Ferrari, so BC Hydro basically charges us a premium for renting a Ferrari for three months.”

In Alberta, he says, electricity service is privatized but still a large expense for ski areas. “I know at Nakiska, for example, they manage their electricity very carefully, but it’s got more to do with how their consumption rate varies throughout the day. So they negotiate and buy blocks of power that they can use at various times of the day, and they’ll choose to make or not make snow. We’re lucky in that we don’t have to worry about that factor.”

Cradduck says BC also charges a “conservation factor” charge which Cradduck is hoping to see go away. It encourages year over year energy efficiency and penalizes increasing use. He says this “works fine for places like shopping malls, but not for us in the East Kootenays where we can have a cold spell that you didn’t have for the last three years – it’s a whole different ballgame.”

Snowmaking is particularly important to lure skiers and snowboarders from far away, an important factor for a destination resort like Panorama. “If you’re booking your vacation in the fall, for skiing in March, you don’t want to get a call that says don’t bother coming. Last year we had tree to tree, summit to base skiing right up to closing day.” He also argues that because man-made snow can be precisely controlled, it provides a better surface which many ski racers prefer to the natural stuff.

He says there’s art as well as science in snowmaking. “If the perfect temperatures hit at 3 in the morning, but you expect them to warm up the next day, you’re not gonna call people in and do a start-up, because by the time you get started and everything, you’ll be shutting down again. So we look for forecast trends where we’re going to see a sustained period of cold weather, we can keep things running through, or at least start up say at five in the afternoon and shut down the next morning at nine o’clock.”

Cradduck sits amidst an array of radios and pump controllers, though much of his job can be handled from a laptop. “We have software on it that monitors the fan guns,” he says, “and the nice thing is that they all have kind of a mini-weather station on them, so that we can see what the temperature is throughout the mountain.” He also has remote control software that so he can start a pump from his dining room table. “The pump house is literally across the creek from my house” he says,” but when it’s -10 and you’re in your pajamas you don’t really want to go out and drive to the pump house.”

As for the future, he sees the installation of a booster pump house at the top of the first lift. Water is not a constraint since they draw from the creek, and have a large water license. “For all intents and purposes, we have an infinite water capacity, which is not the case at every ski hill. Some places are drawing their water from their domestic water supply, so you’re paying someone to treat that water and pump it to you, and that costs a lot.” Other areas have a mountaintop reservoir, but it has a finite capacity so they can run out.

“The ultimate dream for me would be that we would have permanently mounted guns on every run that we have snowmaking on, and I sit in a pump house with a control room that has a massive green button on the wall that I press, after I’ve selected which runs I want to make snow on, the water valves swing automatically and the air is supplied through a series of valving, and all I have to do is go out on a snowmobile and make sure the snow is going on the run and not into the trees on onto a chair lift.”

Or, of course, he could just send in the drones some day in the future. For the next few years, though, it will be crews of workers moving snow guns and lines. And Andrew trying to ensure that you have that smooth ride down the hill. Give him a wave as you fly by.

Dr. Tom Keenan is a professor of Environmental Design at the University of Calgary, a Research Fellow of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, and author of the best-selling book Technocreep.

Alberta’s policy shifts and impact on real estate – where are we? | Business Edge News Magazine
Volume 15, Issue 3

Alberta’s policy shifts and impact on real estate – where are we?

Alberta’s real estate sector is resilient. It is full of smart, well-capitalized companies familiar with Alberta’s economic cycles.

The players have changed substantially over the past 10 years with more national and international players backed by institutional money. Developers today play Calgary and Edmonton as part of Canadian and/or international portfolios. However, new political dimensions are testing the industry’s mettle. Is industry prepared for new factors for capital-investment decisions? While articles of late hyper- focus on the economic cycle, I choose to provide the lesser told, but equally important, political topics that could fundamentally affect the market.

An NDP government has rendered old political networks, and rolodex’s (for those that still have them), relatively useless. Industry is challenged with establishing new government relationships. At the same time, the Municipal Government Act (MGA), Alberta’s largest piece of legislation governing how municipalities, councils, planning, and taxation work, is being overhauled. No small task.

The MGA review commenced in 2014. The industry focused on key MGA areas of city charters, regional planning, environmental and park-land dedication, development charges & financing, and inclusionary zoning. These are major MGA amendments which industry and municipalities must work within to deliver housing to Albertans. A change in government in May 2015 ushered in a new minister of municipal affairs and, since then, another new minister. It is understandable then that this slowed MGA review and adoption of legislative changes well into 2016. The Government is now considering positions as to how the MGA will allow for the making-good on campaign promises – particularly those of inclusionary zoning, affordable housing, and city charters – before further revealing relevant information to the public, industry, and municipalities. Regional growth management will also be implemented via entities such as the Calgary Regional Partnership through upcoming legislation.

Industry also awaits the hiring of a new city manager for Edmonton where city council desires a “hands on” leader to deliver results to Edmontonians and council. A recent re-organization of city departments in the interim is underway. Look to see the new city manager’s strategic objectives for Edmonton Council soon after a hiring announcement.

The “Build Calgary” initiative at the City of Calgary will continue to be watched closely. Recently, Build Calgary’s recommendations delivered to city council for new and infill community development charges were accepted with industry and political support. These changes substantially increased existing levies on the whole, at the same time introducing inner-city levies for the first time. Look next for how other Alberta municipalities follow suit or not as they compete to grow.

So as we start a new year, answers to some political questions, but not all, were revealed. For the rest, you will just have to stay tuned.

David Allen is the founder of Situated, an Alberta-based real estate development adviser and management firm. Look for more articles and learn more about Situated at www.situated.co.