GTEC project delivering economic benefits
Construction creating jobs, activity at the GTH
Even though the first tenants of Brightenview’s Global Trade Exhibition Centre (GTEC) won’t arrive until 2018, the project is already a hive of activity at the GTH.
PCL Construction Management Inc. is making daily progress on GTEC’s sales office and an 80,000 square foot exhibit centre – that represents the first phase of the long-term $45 million development.
Since breaking ground in July, PCL and its supply network have been preparing infrastructure, erecting structural steel and pouring the slab for the massive exhibit centre. On a typical day, about 50-60 people are on site, with a target of completing the sales office in October 2017 and the exhibit centre by March 2018.
“A project like this touches a lot of different trades and vendors in the province,” says Patrick Mollard, construction manager for PCL. “We hire about 30 different companies as sub-contractors or suppliers – everything from outside work, concrete, plumbing, electrical, flooring. The majority of the products and suppliers come from within the province.”
GTEC is expected to provide a point of entry for a number of manufacturers and entrepreneurs from China to enter North America, providing ease of access across Canada and into the United States. When fully developed, as many as 300 business are expected to be present at GTEC, with a projected capital investment of more than $200 million.
In the interim, the project is creating an estimated 56 person-years of employment in Saskatchewan’s construction sector. These jobs are estimated to generate $339,000 in personal income tax at the provincial level and $483,000 in personal income tax at the federal level. The full development of the Brightenview property is expected to generate about three times that amount of employment and personal taxes.
The project has moved quickly since being announced in May 2017, which is one of the benefits of GTH’s streamlined approval processes. As a self-regulating entity, the GTH can work collaboratively with tenants to review development plans and issue permits efficiently.
Most municipalities have a 30-60 day timeline to assess applications. With revisions and resubmissions, the permitting process can extend to several months. The GTH is more agile, making it possible for a project like the GTEC to reduce the time from initial purchase agreement to development.
“It’s one of the selling points for the GTH,” says Matt Schroeder, Vice President of Finance for the GTH. “We have control over the application process. We have a licensed building inspector that does the approvals on the permits and through the construction process. We track how quickly we turn those around and our average is 18 days. When you can save a few extra weeks on a permit, it helps with construction plans.”
GTH fits “new global pattern” for China
China’s growing list of export-oriented entrepreneurs had an opportunity to see one of their own sign on to an exciting future at the GTH as part of Brightenview’s Global Trade and Exhibition Centre (GTEC).
Stars Group made its commitment to the GTEC project at a signing event at a Shanghai hotel that attracted hundreds of in-person attendees and thousands more online. The event, organized by a Chinese wealth management organization, featured speakers from Canada and China describing what Saskatchewan can offer those in business and looking to invest.
Rhonda Ekstrom, vice president of business development at the GTH, described the benefits of operating at the GTH – including our central location and proximity to major transportation routes, Foreign Trade Zone status, independent governance structure, and, significantly, the connection to Canada’s Asia-Pacific Corridor Initiative.
“We need to do business,” said Ekstrom. “While the rest of the world will contemplate, we can take action.”
Zhou Yang, the executive deputy director of the China Association of Small and Medium Enterprises pointed out how more small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in China are recognizing Saskatchewan has a promising future. His organization specializes in helping SMEs go global, something he sees as possible through the GTH and GTEC and as fitting with China’s new trade initiative: “One Belt, One Road.”
“A new global pattern for SMEs is taking shape,” said Joe Zhou, the CEO of Brightenview. “Those international investors wanting to invest and operate in the North American market can run into common challenges. But joining GTEC makes it easier to establish in an unfamiliar market and where language and business traditions can sometimes be a barrier.”
Weldon Epp, Consul General of Canada in Shanghai was also a featured speaker at the GTEC investor forum. He encouraged Chinese investors to see Canada as a gateway to all of North America, with governments at all levels putting forth policies that support an open economy that welcomes investment.
Building for the future
LaBelle says GTH infrastructure will be a competitive advantage
Lionel LaBelle has witnessed the development of the GTH from a good idea to a growing logistics park. As one of the longest-serving members of the GTH Board of Directors, he believes the best is yet to come.
LaBelle, a member of the GTH Board since its formation in 2010, says the commitment to investing in large-scale infrastructure to meet the evolving needs of the transportation industry will pay long-term dividends to the organization and to the province.
“Our focus was to create a logistics hub with 10-, 20-, 50-acre plots that serve distribution networks,” says LaBelle. "Our road system, the plans for bypass/overpasses – we really cater to logistics distribution”.
“We’re seeing semi-trailers pulling two trailers today. A few years out, I believe we’ll see them pulling three or four trailers. Having the infrastructure to manage that kind of length safely and efficiently is critical and we have that. That’s a big plus.”
LaBelle understands the importance of transportation to Saskatchewan’s trade-based economy. He served as Chief Executive Officer of the Saskatchewan Trade and Export Partnership (STEP) from 2008-2014, gaining first-hand experience into the opportunities and challenges of moving goods to and from global markets.
The experience demonstrated a path to new relationships and new markets – expertise that LaBelle brings to the GTH Board.
“We (STEP) had a pretty good run; that wasn’t an accident;” says LaBelle. “We had a specific strategy in multiple markets. I would tell you we haven’t even scratched the surface yet. The potential for Saskatchewan is remarkable. The real challenge will be logistics: can we get those products to market on a timely basis?”
The GTH’s double-wide roads built to handle large truck and trailer movement make the park an appealing home for distribution centres. With the completion of the Regina Bypass, the GTH will provide more efficient transit across Western Canada and into the United States.
With that, the park has an opportunity to establish a distribution presence like smaller, centrally located communities in the southwestern United States that serve large distribution areas – like the Bentonville, Arkansas, facility to serves a broad network of Wal-Mart stores.
“When people say Regina isn’t the right spot, I tell them Bentonville isn’t the right spot either, but something happened there,” says LaBelle. “The Regina Bypass really accentuates what we’re trying to accomplish in terms of the logistics of moving trucks in and out of the park. If you think about distribution, we have 40-50 million people we can serve out of the Regina area within 24 hours.”
LaBelle believes the ease of access to much of North America will appeal to European and Asian companies looking to gain a foothold on this side of the ocean.
LaBelle sees the Federal Government’s focus on international trade agreements and its commitment to the Free Trade agreement recently signed with Europe is perfectly aligned with the GTH’s potential. The park provides a central location for newcomers from all over the world to establish their Canadian network at a location that can serve markets to the east and west.
“There are a lot of European companies that people in North America don’t know yet,” says LaBelle. “With the American government’s withdrawal from the Trans Pacific Partnership, Canada can still play a very proactive role in working towards agreements with Japan, China and ultimately the entire Asean region. We have a number of companies in China and Southeast Asia collectively that are aggressive marketers looking for an opportunity to participate in the North American marketplace. That makes the GTH a prime candidate.”
“Our job at the GTH is a simple one. It is incumbent on us to define our value proposition and seek out those global companies looking for a foothold into the North American marketplace.”
Vehicle enforcement unit, GTH partner to improve road safety
Matthew Austin’s interest in commercial vehicles dates netback many years so it’s no surprise his career path has led him to Saskatchewan as a new recruit with the province’s Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Branch (CVE). His enthusiasm is not only evident when he speaks about his new job; but by the grin he was sporting while undergoing on-the-job training this past July at the Global Transportation Hub.
As one of four new recruits to the CVE branch of the Ministry of Highways, Austin began an extensive 23-week training program. According to CVE specialist Brad Lisson, the recruits are trained in everything from radar speed enforcement and weight regulations, to cargo securement and commercial driver log books. “Their curriculum is wide-ranging and we have a lot to cover; we’re grateful to the GTH for not only providing us a safe location for some of our training needs; but for allowing their own experienced enforcement officer to serve as a coach.”
With extra-wide roads and 4,600 trucks moving through the inland port weekly, the GTH has become a natural training location for many law Saskatchewan enforcement agencies. In addition to the traffic enforcement training, the RCMP recently spent a week on site undertaking skid-testing research on commercial vehicles.
The impressive infrastructure that makes up the GTH is not lost on its visitors. “It’s really neat to think that a lot of cross border trucks in my patrol area in Estevan will likely end up at the GTH to unload or switch trailers,” noted Austin. “I had heard of the GTH but it really blew me away how large and busy it was.”
For Austin, who studied criminal justice at Lethbridge College, his family’s relocation to Saskatchewan this month and expanded training are an exciting step toward the future.
“I’ve always been interested in commercial vehicles,” said Austin. “Many people don’t understand the important role we play in the province. We have a responsibility to protect the provincial infrastructure system and to keep the driving public safe. That’s what makes me most proud of this career.”
GTH featured in prominent magazine
You can read more on the GTH in the latest edition of business magazine Industry West – a quarterly Saskatchewan publication devoted to the promotion and advancement of the province’s many economic sectors.
This was a great marketing opportunity to provide an overview of the GTH and the economic benefits that come with having an inland port in the province. Industry West magazine is distributed quarterly throughout the province to relevant companies, corporations, agencies, associations and industrial players. The article can be viewed on our website or check out the online version at industrywestmagazine.com.
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