SREDA’s January 2019 economic outlook for Saskatchewan projected GDP growth for the year at 1.6 per cent, with 1.8 per cent for 2020—modest in comparison to previous years, but can we call it “bad?” Saskatchewan’s economic growth is inhibited by decreases in commodity prices, but competition remains alive and well in certain industries such as agriculture, technology, science and innovation.
“The good news is, we have one of North America’s diversified economies,” says David Froh, Vice President of Economic Development Regina. “Relatively speaking, we’re stable, and our population is one of the fastest growing and youngest in the country. We’re operating from a position of strength.”
With $151 billion in new investments since 2008, according to Statistics Canada, what makes Saskatchewan attractive for investors?
Steve McLellan, CEO of Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce, points to three major factors. “We have the right resources,” he says. “Saskatchewan has the most amazing resource capacities in the world. We have abundance in raw product.”
The second feature he points at is the Saskatchewan people. “We have people who will partner, who want to partner, with you. The human factor consists of expertise in everything from accounting to the legal perspective. And our municipalities are extremely investment friendly.”
The last indicator Saskatchewan is great for investment? The regulatory environment. McLellan says the past 10 years have been period of transformation, making it easy to do business here. “We’re not perfect yet, but Saskatchewan is a good environment for investment.”
Saskatchewan is rife with lucrative industries. Mining and energy. Agriculture. Construction. Manufacturing. Retail and wholesale. Biosciences and technology. International companies that have made recent investments or established operations in Saskatchewan include BHP, K+S Potash, Glencore, Orano (AREVA), Yara International and BASF. McLellan points to ag-related investments where he predicts a lot of growth over the next few years, such as the Protein Industries Canada, the prairie-based agri-food technology group taking advantage of the province’s agricultural bounty.
Froh agrees that ag-technology is an economic sector still progressing through this period of slower growth. He also notes that entrepreneurialism remains high and will continue to drive this forward. Path Cowork in Regina houses numerous technology, agriculture, oil and gas startups, and Protein Industries Canada. He expects a surge of employment and capital investment to come from these innovative entrepreneurial businesses.
Froh points out two key factors to why this province is an investor’s best choice. The quality of life here can’t be found elsewhere. “Regina is an affordable place to live. The average cost of home ownership is 28 per cent. It’s one of the best in Canada to find a home and a job. We cannot underestimate the importance of that.”
He, like McLellan, points to the Saskatchewan population as a driver. “The best way to reposition ourselves for the future is partnerships with Indigenous people and newcomers to Canada. We have a young, diverse population committed to partnering with investments made here. Let’s harness the talent of our young people.”
Going forward, Froh says, “Youth, reconciliation and a commitment to move up the value chain will provide optimism for investors. We’re focused on long-term competitiveness; we have world class infrastructure and industrial land development.”
McLellan points to the large labour force in Saskatchewan and from that the interest in partnerships because money isn’t tied up elsewhere. He notes that the political turmoil on the provincial, federal and even global stage act as a distortion for investors, but predicts period of “cooling-down” where we can get back to business. The challenge of global competition will remain, but he doesn’t see it fazing the province too much. “The world is so vast with opportunity,” he says. “This will always be a challenge, but Saskatchewan will always be working hard at gaining the attention of investors.”