What is Edmonton Global?
“It’s all about growing investment and jobs for the region,” says CEO Malcolm Bruce.
It is the first regional economic development initiative of its kind for the Edmonton Metropolitan Region, and although it was only incorporated in June of last year, the idea of it has been percolating for quite some time.
Bruce is happy to explain, “Edmonton Global will help align a lot of regional activity that is currently conducted through the offices of many different regional partners, such as: Edmonton International Airport (EIA), Alberta Industrial Heartland, Spruce Grove Economic Development, Edmonton Economic Development Corporation, etc. We are working to partner with all of them in creating a regional narrative that will make us far more marketable and more competitive globally.”
“The world is an ever-shrinking environment when it comes to global dollars,” Bruce continues. “We are creating a niche for the region that says ‘We are a unique region. Come, invest, and grow here.’ We will work collectively and collaboratively on how to become more globally trade oriented. Currently, 80 per cent of products are consumed inside of Alberta. There has not been a huge need for us to go to global markets in some areas. Now, we want it more universally known that we are looking for export and trade opportunities and that we are investment and trade ready. For regional companies that are ready for export opportunities, Edmonton Global is going to help them grow in partnership with regional economic development partners.”
Economic diversification, trade, leveraging of assets – this sounds positive for a region whose economy currently rises and falls with the price of oil. The region’s assets, says Bruce, are plentiful.
“We graduate over 20,000 post secondary students every year from about eight institutions. We want those graduates to reach their fullest potential here in the region and provide opportunities for them. We have the largest petrochemical cluster in Canada and the second largest manufacturing parks of their kind (second only to Houston) in North America. We have one of the largest healthcare centres. The University of Alberta ranks high in the artificial intelligence and machine learning sectors. We have the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT), one of the of the largest apprenticeship trainers in Canada, offering 34 registered trades programs and 112 industry partners. We have 35 per cent of the best agricultural land in the province. This region is a force to be reckoned with!”
Edmonton Global intends to show the world this force by adhering to three core tenants in four key sectors: collaboration, focus and innovation in advanced manufacturing, energy and clean technology, food and agriculture, and health.
Bruce is excited to be at the helm of this venture.
“It was not a direct journey,” he smiles. “I was originally with the Edmonton Metropolitan Region Board (EMRB). One of the key things it delivered was the region’s growth plan. This plan looks out 30 years to see how the region could grow in land use and other policies to accommodate the forecasted growth of another million people and 470,000 jobs by 2044. One of the policy areas (of six in the growth plan) is economic competition and employment. Edmonton Global is operationalizing that policy area to a tangible outcome. I was intrigued by this new entity and thought I could help it out. I applied to see if they would take me on.”
It wasn’t only his prior work at EMRB that qualified Bruce for the role of Edmonton Global’s CEO. Bruce, a long-term military man, retired from service in 2012 and is humbled to be a recipient of a Meritorious Service Medal. He feels his military background provided many transferrable skills needed to help Edmonton Global excel.
“What is interesting about that is the fact that I could have retired anywhere in Canada,” he muses. “I was born in Montreal and grew up in Quebec. I’ve lived in seven different provinces and visited nearly every corner of the country. When I thought about my family and where we would have the best opportunity and set roots, Edmonton was the place that grabbed my attention. This was largely due to friends like Sol Rollinger, who strongly encouraged me to consider making Edmonton my final posting and home for my family.
“I have three daughters. Two have graduated from Alberta universities and have meaningful employment in the fields of their choice, and the third is finishing school this year. To me, this proves that the decision was correct. This is a great region to live, work and play in.”
He thinks back on his military career. “The military is, if nothing else, a learning organization. They really promote broadening your horizons and stretching your opportunities so you have a very in-depth understanding of a wide array of subjects and situations. When you do encounter problems, you have a way to work through them. They invest a lot of time teaching you how to be a leader. When I wasn’t in charge of things, I was an operational planner. When you are an operational planner, you get complex problems to solve. Some of the problems are constrained by time, resources, or a whole other series of things you may or may not know about.
“When I moved over to the EMRB, it was a planning effort. We want a shared vision of a prosperous, sustainable region going forward. How do you achieve that? That is something for a planner! I took the skills I learned in the military and applied them as a civilian.”
Bruce continues, “In the military we have an aim. As a civilian you have a vision. Essentially it is the same process of bringing people together to achieve common goals while respecting different points of views, backgrounds and needs. If we can agree on the outcome, we can work collectively to get there.”
It’s not all work and no play for the intrepid leader. He employs the same dedication to his downtime as he does to his career.
“I’m an avid beekeeper!” he admits. “When I retired from the military I promised myself I would try a whole bunch of different things. So, we moved to a small acreage where I could bee keep, have a garden, etc. Bees are fascinating! And they can be frustrating! I am still learning with some mixed results.”
While his bees and garden are a source of relaxation and enjoyment, Edmonton Global and its plans to change, lead and inspire the region, are never far from his mind.
“Branding and marketing Edmonton Global is critical for success. Not only on the external global stage, but within our own region so we’re not duplicating efforts and diluting the opportunities to bring new business home to the region,” says Bruce.
“I know we need to demonstrate how the collaborative approach to investment is the right approach. We know this won’t happen overnight, but the conversations are commencing and the seeds are being planted. I have to ask for tactical patience as we watch the idea take root and grow.
“What brings me encouragement is that in July we met with all the development agencies and all of the area’s economic development officers in a single forum. The first thing I said was, ‘If we are going to make this work, I need you to tell me what we need to do.’ They came up with a list.
“One of the items on the list is one regional level database (there are currently eight separate databases) so everyone has a shared understanding of what assets exists across the region. This supports us on a holistic level.”
Although he may be a strong champion of Edmonton Global, Bruce stresses that the venture is coming together only because of the collaboration at the government level and among the regions’ mayors and economic development officers.
“I have to applaud the courage of the political leadership that made this all come together,” says Bruce. “They really seized the opportunity and funded the organization. The province is now also providing funding. I appreciate the leadership and courage it took them to make this work.
“I must also emphasize the collaborative partnership with everyone in the ecosystem. Yes, there were challenges and competition in putting Edmonton Global together, but we all know that collectively we are better together.”
For Bruce, part of what makes a great leader and what will help shape the future of the region is creating opportunities to give back. While Edmonton Global has not yet fully realized its community initiatives, EMRB was proud to support Youth Empowerment Support Services (YESS) and to assist with food hampers at Christmas.
Bruce is personally involved in the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry (PPCLI) Foundation, which was his regiment during his time in the military. Through the PPCLI, he helps assist veterans that require a little extra support. Bruce is also happy to help grow future leaders by supporting youth empowerment and education. Last year PPCLI Foundation raised enough money to send 12 youth and two chaperones on a battlefield tour.
“It’s important to make sure the next generation understands what the military did for them, and to support those that sacrificed so much,” he says.
As Edmonton Global gets underway and moves forward, Bruce thanks numerous mentors he encountered in his military and civilian life. He is also extremely grateful to the region’s 15 mayors that were instrumental in the launch of Edmonton Global. He expresses thanks to thought leaders: Mary Cameron, Tom Ruth, Janet Riopel, Brad Ferguson and Barbara McKenzie, among others. He has the utmost respect for his close friend Ian Barrigan, who taught him that in this city, you can still seal a business deal with your word and handshake.
“What comes next is that we are going to continue to work as a collaborative collective to create the protocols and communication facilities,” Bruce concludes about the future of Edmonton Global. “Then, we will align provincially and nationally about how we are going to work together and create a unified picture on how to sell Canada and Alberta. We will make sure we listen to businesses, so we know how to make our region more competitive. Ultimately, it’s about the businesses and how we can help get them to where they need to be.”
He pauses to look outside his office window, which beautifully frames the River Valley.
“I want my children to stay here. I want my grandchildren to stay here. I want to provide the opportunity for that. If you ask our board members and team members, they say this is what it’s all about. We have an outstanding quality of life here. Canada is the best country in the world to live. Alberta and this region have so much to offer. It’s important that people understand how Edmonton Global will be a significant gamechanger for the region. This has been a long time coming. If we all work together, we will truly see some positive outcomes.”