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Edmonton region leads in manufacturing productivity

A strong and growing cluster

Did you know the Edmonton Metropolitan Region is home to one of Canada’s major manufacturing clusters?

In fact, over the last decade, and on a per capita basis, the region outperformed any other major city in Canada in manufacturing sales – a strong indicator of the sector’s productivity (Figure 1). And in absolute terms, Edmonton is the clear hub for manufacturing in western Canada.

Productivity is key in manufacturing, helping organizations to boost their ROI. This is why the region’s local manufacturing expertise would be useful both to international companies with expansion plans that include the need to have their products manufactured in North America, as well as North American companies exploring opportunities to onshore or partially onshore their manufacturing – a growing trend that we are seeing in the global market.

What makes the Edmonton region so attractive for manufacturing? Well, it all comes down to the five T’s.

Talent, skills & expertise

Post-secondary institutions like the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology, one of Canada’s leading polytechnics, and the University of Alberta produce some of Canada’s most talented engineers, machinists, welders, technicians, operators and other manufacturing experts.

Technical Standards

Rigorous standard certification sure, combined with highly skilled staff and infrastructure mean that goods manufactured in the region meet the highest international standards for quality.


Whether it’s orbital welding, laser cladding, 3D-printing, nanofabrication, automation or rapid prototyping the region has technology experience to meet your requirements for advanced manufacturing.

There’s also plenty of resources available for those looking to drive innovation in their manufacturing operations. For example, InnoTech Alberta’s Alberta Manufacturing and Fabrication Innovation program supports the manufacturing sector through education, de-risking technologies and processes, by providing resources and expertise to support the technology adoption process. There are also private sector groups driving innovation in the sector. One example is Prototype Hubs  – they have developed an advanced manufacturing platform that automates the manufacturing process and connects those needing prototypes with those who can make them.


The Edmonton region is strategically located on major trades routes including the Canamex highway system that links Canada to Mexico. The region is also home to North America’s closest major airport to Asia. The region is also linked both major Canadian railways providing convenient access to west coast ports and inland transportation hubs like Chicago.


Edmonton’s designation as a Foreign Trade Zone (FTZ) means investors are eligible for duty and tax relief. This means investors can establish a presence in the region, import components, complete manufacturing of products and then export those products to international markets as made-in-Canada products. The Edmonton region saw the strongest trade growth in Canada during the 10-year period from 2009-2019 at 10.8%, that’s double the national average. We expect a strong rebound in international trade post-pandemic.


The region sold over $28 billion in manufactured goods in 2020 (figure 2) – and when we look at this chart it’s clear why the Edmonton region has a reputation as Canada’s petrochemical centre. These three areas (petroleum, chemicals and plastics) represent about two thirds of the region’s manufacturing sales in 2020. But what’s even more interesting to me are the region’s manufacturing capabilities in areas that are less well known. In 2020, the Edmonton region sold more than $200 million in twelve sub-categories of manufactured goods (see figure 2).


Let’s take a look at the region’s expertise in the manufacture of machinery. In 2020 the Edmonton region led the country’s major cities for per capita sales ($1,550/capita) or $2.3 billion in sales in absolute terms- trailing only Toronto and Montreal (figure 3).

The region is home to more than 460 companies making everything from photography equipment (e.g. Lightrein) and chainsaw components (e.g. Goldtec International) to data centers (e.g. Silent-aire) and custom metal parts (e.g. Alco). From heavy construction equipment (CRS Cranesystems Inc) and pumps (e.g. Water Buoy Pumps Inc), to internet of things hardware (e.g. Titan Logix) and agricultural equipment (e.g. Hay Boss Feeders) – there’s a ton of innovation happening in this sector.

Computers and Electronics

Edmonton also has underappreciated capabilities in the manufacture of electronic components including computers, electronics and nanotechnology.

The Edmonton region includes 145 companies making everything from analytical instruments (Vanko Analytics) and printed circuit boards (Levven) to medical imaging equipment (MagnetTx) and data auditing equipment for the transportation and logistics industry (Data Audit Industries). Antennas (Power Antenna Manufacturing) and process control equipment (Dycor) to semiconductors (Micralyne) and novel propulsion technologies for the aerospace sector (Space Engine Systems).

In all, the region manufactured $259 million in electronics and computer equipment in 2020 across 21 subcategories of electronics (Figure 4). There is a whole other category called “electrical equipment and components”, not captured here, which resulted in an additional $205 million in sales from the region in 2020.

2020 – A challenging year

Like other jurisdictions across Canada, the Edmonton region suffered steep losses as a result of COVID-19 falling from $3 billion in January 2020 to a low of $ 1.7 billion in April 2020 before returning to $2.4 billion in January this year.

While some regions have experienced a lot of volatility, the recovery in the Edmonton region has been slow but steady, continuing to trend in the right direction – up.


Even before COVID-19, local manufacturers were adapting to changing markets – often using capabilities that were built up to serve traditional markets to diversify into other verticals. A few interesting examples include:

  1. Cougar Drilling leveraged their expertise in oil and gas drilling to build a product to serve the growing geothermal energy market.
  2. Karma manufacturing added the manufacture of medical devices for rehabilitative medicine to their product portfolio.
  3. G2V developed its first products for use in solar energy applications and later expanded into lighting solutions for the greenhouse sector.
  4. Appolo Machine and Welding built upon their deep experience in manufacturing to become leaders in advanced 3-D printing and laser cladding.
  5. Lea-der Coatings is best known for their drill floor traction matting but also produces an ER quality wound closure device called ZipStitch.

COVID accelerated diversification in the sector and inspired a number of local manufacturing leaders to assist in the response efforts in innovative ways. Here are just a few examples:

  1. Cowan Graphics Inc. pivoted from printing advertising and marketing materials to signage promoting social distancing; and then went further to manufacture face shields.
  2. Gear Halo went from making sports equipment to manufacturing masks for health-care workers.
  3. Orion plastics added personal protective equipment to its offering with the addition of N95 masks.
  4. Applied Quantum Materials pivoted its nanotechnology to build COVID testing kits.

Evolutionary theory holds that it’s not the strongest or even the most intelligent that survives – rather the most adaptable to change. If this holds true in a business sense, companies in the Edmonton region are demonstrating that they’re here to stay.

Not to be overlooked

We’ve been paying a lot of attention to the Edmonton region’s capabilities in areas like energy, agriculture and life sciences – the region’s manufacturing expertise isn’t always given the attention it deserves. But expertise in this sector is a major asset that shouldn’t be overlooked. Whether you’re considering expansion or re-shoring operations to North America, chances are good that the Edmonton region has the skills and infrastructure to deliver on your manufacturing requirements.

Cargo expansion brings big benefits for region

Edmonton International Airport (EIA) will undergo a significant expansion to its cargo operations, bringing new job creation opportunities for local businesses and increased capacity for importing critical goods for our region.  

The Government of Canada announced on Feb. 24, 2021, that EIA will receive an $18M grant under the National Trades Corridor Fund to support a $36M total expansion of cargo operations. EIA will contribute the other 50 per cent of the required funding. This project will expand the cargo-area apron, allowing the airport to accommodate more planes at one time for loading and unloading. EIA will also install a new hydrant fueling system specific for cargo refueling needs, replacing the truck-based fueling system increasing safety and how fast refueling can be done. Finally, the airport’s Fresh Cargo Centre, the cold-storage area, will be expanded in order to facilitate increased good movement. Construction of these projects will support roughly 360 direct jobs and the long-term potential for more in operations. 

“Our cargo operations have grown immensely in the past five years, especially during this pandemic, and we urgently need to expand to position the Edmonton Metropolitan Region as a major cargo hub. By investing in expanding our cargo capacity, our air pipelines, we’re well positioned for more flights, more jobs, more investment to benefit everyone,” said Tom Ruth, President and CEO of Edmonton International Airport.  

EIA’s cargo operations were a critical operation for the Edmonton region in 2020. Last year, the Airport and its cargo partners handled 46,000 metric tons of cargo, a 7.5 per cent increase from 2019. This included medical PPE supplies as well as increases in e-commerce. These flights involve multiple private companies based at the airport who provide loading, unloading and freight forwarding services. Each flight supports private-sector jobs and helps attract investment. EIA is the only airport in Canada with the globally recognized CEIV Pharma certification from the International Air Transport Association. This means we meet the highest standards in the world for handling temperature-sensitive cargo such as agriculture and food products as well as pharmaceutical and medical cargo. 

“The Edmonton Metropolitan Region and EIA is Canada’s closest major airport to Asia by circumpolar routes. This region has the potential to become a major entry point for all North America. International cargo logistics and transportation provides tremendous value and jobs. Our northern location is a significant advantage and this investment is a major boost to create long-term opportunities for both exports and imports,” said Malcolm Bruce, CEO of Edmonton Global. 

Specifically, the cargo expansion project will include: 

  • Expansion of the primary cargo apron area by 47,000 square metres, enough for two more widebody cargo planes or five in total at the same time. That’s equal to five-and-a-half CFL football fields in expansion. A new connection from the runway to the apron will also be constructed.  
  • A new hydrant system that will tie into the two, two-million litre Shell Aviation Fuel tanks. This means faster and more efficient refueling and less trucks on the apron to increase safety.  
  • Expansion of the cold storage cargo capacity by 1,400 square metres. This will increase EIA’s cold storage area to nearly 2,000 square metres total.  

The transportation and logistics industry in the Edmonton Metro Region supports between 63,000 and 73,000 jobs. From 2014 to 2018, EIA recorded a 25-times increase in international overseas exports from its facilities. The entire Edmonton region is a foreign trade zone – operating as Port Alberta. EIA’s enhanced cargo capabilities will further strengthen the region’s international competitiveness for attracting businesses looking for a North American base to develop and manufacture products to meet global demand. 

Design work for the project is now underway with construction to start late in 2021 as weather allows and last for two years.  

Learn more about the regions global connectivity.

API grows pharma manufacturing capacity

Applied Pharmaceutical Innovation (API) has passed an important milestone in securing the Edmonton Metropolitan Region’s place as a global player in the pharmaceutical manufacturing sector.

The Drug Development and Innovation Centre facility has received a notice of Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) compliance for a Drug Establishment Licence (DEL) following an audit by Health Canada. GMP certification is an important international manufacturing standard that is required to be able to produce pharmaceuticals that can be sold internationally. This news will dramatically enhance the region’s ability to attract investment into pharmaceutical manufacturing.

“This is a huge step forward for API’s efforts to develop security of supply manufacturing and support innovators in the commercial market.” says Applied Pharmaceutical Innovation CEO, Andrew MacIsaac, “Over the past 9 months we’ve been working around the clock to bolster our capacity to meet needs related to COVID-19 and we’ve now passed this significant milestone.”

While API’s facilities were previously appropriate for clinical trials, a DEL will enable the organization to work with products that are on the market – a critical licensing step in the efforts of API to establish production of Propofol and other drugs.

Propofol in particular, has seen a lot of shortages during the pandemic, and is a critical drug in the treatment of patients requiring the use of a ventilator.

“We’ve now got everything in hand to expedite the launch the Edmonton Metropolitan Region is home to a large concentration of chemical companies, world-class expertise, accessible health datasets from 4.5 million people and a university that is ranked 3rd globally in AI research,” says Andrew. “We’re well positioned to be an emerging hub for pharmaceutical R&D of products from our planned facility once it is funded.”

Chemical companies in the region such as Gilead and Rane Pharmaceutical, already manufacture smaller batches of drugs that are used in clinical trials. They also produce a lot of the ingredients needed for GMP certified facilities. Gilead’s Edmonton facility has been critical in producing Remdesivir. By establishing a GMP facility in the region, API is helping to secure the missing link that would complete the entire supply chain of pharmaceutical manufacturing in the region.

The region already has the infrastructure needed to supply the international market. The Edmonton International Airport (EIA) is the first airport in Canada to successfully secure CEIV certification for pharmaceutical handling through the International Air Transportation Association.

“Establishing the Edmonton region as a pharmaceutical manufacturing hub makes sense for a lot of reasons,” says Lynette Tremblay, Edmonton Global’s VP of Strategy & Innovation. “The region already has a unique combination of assets including infrastructure, expertise and government support. API’s certification unlocks the potential that exists for pharmaceutical manufacturing here.”

API and Edmonton Global are working with the Government of Canada and the Province of Alberta to secure funding for a new 40,000 square foot manufacturing facility.

Onetwosix Design – Finding solutions through innovation

Onetwosix founders, Brendan Gallagher & Nick Kazakoff

Onetwosix founders, Nick Kazakoff and Brendan Gallagher are both graduates of the University of Alberta’s Industrial Design program – a program that Nick refers to as a “hidden gem” in the Edmonton region. The program has developed near mythic status in the design world – with students graduating into jobs with firms like Adidas, Nike and Lego to name a few – a testament to the depth and breadth of talent that is coming out of the post-secondary institutions in the Edmonton Metropolitan Region and Onetwosix is no exception.

They’ve seen some substantial growth since they were founded in 2015 and that success is translating into recognition. Onetwosix has recently received a Designer of the Year award from Western Living Magazine. They have developed design solutions ranging from office privacy, to medical equipment, to solutions for safe covid-19 screening. If there’s a design challenge, the pair have proven they are more than capable of finding innovative ways to solve it.

Nick credits the supportive business environment that exists within the Edmonton region for a lot of their success.

“We started out with investing only $4000 and were working out of a garage,” says Nick. “We really benefitted from initiatives like the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce’s Trade Accelerator Program that worked with us to bring our product to market. But on top of that, the local business community is incredible. When it came time to expand our operations and we needed more space, another well-established design firm in the area, IZM, offered to let us share some of their workspace. They could have viewed us as the competition but instead they provided us with incredible support and mentorship.”

The duo’s biggest success has come with their Loop Phone Booth, an office privacy solution made to address the drawbacks that were starting to emerge in open-concept office spaces. The pair’s modern take on phone booths has generated a lot of interest, translating into orders from big name companies like Shopify, Mercedes Benz and even Pokemon.

The Loop Phone Booth

“The reception to our designs has been incredible,” says Nick. “And working with these companies has been amazing.”

When it came to the decision of where to manufacture their designs, Nick says the decision was pretty simple.

“The Edmonton region has such a strong background when it comes to expertise in manufacturing, it made sense to build our product here,” points out Nick. “The capabilities here are really sophisticated. And while traditionally, a lot of the manufacturing that’s been happening here has been in the energy sector, those same tools, knowledge and skillsets are completely translatable for our industry.”

This decision to establish their manufacturing operations in the region has also helped them in other ways. Being located in the Edmonton region meant much faster shipping times for their North American clients compared to some of their competitors and it provided a gateway into the US market.

“We’ve also benefitted from government incentives like the Canadian Export Grant,” says Nick. “This really helped us break into the US market with our office furniture solutions.”

But this innovative firm is not content to simply focus on one niche market. In fact, one of the greatest strengths of this innovative firm lies in their ability to apply their design skills to a broad range of industries.

“We’ve always approached design by thinking about the people that will be using our product. And we look for the solutions that are unique to that person and their situation – it’s truly a human-centred approach,” says Nick. 

It’s this attitude that has seen the duo successfully take on the daunting challenge of designing the housing for an MRI machine, to help make patients feel more at ease, and on the complete opposite side of the design spectrum, they’ve developed a new design for a line of curling brooms.

More recently, Onetwosix has shifted their focus again, using their unique skillsets to address some of the challenges that have emerged due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Specifically, they’ve designed the Loop Rapid Screening Booth, a modular design that creates a safe environment for people administering COVID-19 testing, making the procedure quicker and safer and eliminating the use of some PPE equipment – which has seen a huge surge in demand throughout the pandemic.  Their design has been authorized as a Class 1 medical device for use in relation to COVID-19 by Health Canada and the pair is working hard to bring their concept to market. They are actively building partnerships with airports where rapid testing could support the air travel industry – arguably the hardest hit industry throughout the pandemic.

“A product like this has the ability to impact a broad range of industries though,” says Nick. “From airports to healthcare, to schools, to almost any businesses wanting to create a safe environment for their employees – we see the potential for our Rapid Screening Booth to have a broad impact.”

You can learn more by reaching out to the team at Onetwosix by following this link.


The Edmonton-based company sells cheesecakes and cheese shreds, and will soon launch a line of meat alternatives and expand into the U.S.

When Ahmad Yehya and his partner, Afaf Miri, started Nabati Foods in 2014, they set out to show consumers that it’s possible to eat mouth-watering foods and also live a healthy life.

“It’s based out of passion for whole, plant-based foods. We started out making desserts that we sold at farmers’ markets and our vision is to inspire those that value their health to indulge in clean foods … and positively impact the climate as well,” said Yehya, president of the company.

“We saw that North American culture was so different than where we came from,” Yehya explained, who is Egyptian but grew up in Saudi Arabia before moving to Canada at university age. “You can still have amazing food whether you want to consume burgers or something else by incorporating plant-based foods.”

They started with desserts as they didn’t find many whole-food alternatives and they wanted to fill that gap in the market. Their first product line was a selection of dairy-free cheesecakes, including blueberry, chocolate, tiramisu and peanut butter. Cheese alternatives followed, with their current selection including cheddar and mozzarella shreds. Soon they will be offering slices as well.

Their most popular product is the Nabati Cheeze Mozzarella Style Shreds, which they created to taste and melt exactly like dairy cheese.

The products are developed in-house and the team invests a considerable amount of time perfecting each recipe. They mostly use peas, nuts and coconut in their products.

“We start out with seeing what’s out there and what the consumer expects. Then we look at where the gaps are and try to make a product that bridges that.”

The focus is more about the process of making each product than the formulation and Yehya said they intentionally incorporated scalability into that.

As they’ve learned from each product line, they’ve improved their processes and gotten faster. While their cheesecakes took a few years to develop, their newest line was developed in a few months.

That line of meat alternatives is launching later this summer with chicken, fish and beef patties as well as ground beef.

While companies like Beyond Meat have dominated that space in recent years, Yehya isn’t worried about his company’s ability to be successful.

“We develop our products to directly compete with them and position ourselves in a way that you’re not just buying a meat alternative but you’re supporting a Canadian company that creates jobs here.

“We’re trying to come in and position our unique brand in the market by also offering products that are not necessarily addressed by the big brands. We’re creating products that stand out from the competition.”

When the idea to start Nabati Foods was born, Yehya pooled his money with his wife Afaf Miri and his father to lease and renovate a 1,700-square-foot space in Edmonton that the company’s team of six is still using as their main production facility. But Yehya said they need a space three to four times that size to support growth in Canada and the United States.

“We’re at a point where if we raise capital and resources, we can grow really quickly versus having to continue doing things ourselves and it would take much longer,” said Yehya.

Currently, their products can be ordered online and are available across Canada, mostly at Save on Foods and Sobeys/Safeway stores as well as many independents.

They’ve had to turn down opportunities because everything that’s being made is selling out and it’s been tough to keep up with demand. Looking forward, he’s working on getting Nabati Foods into five distribution centres in the United States.

“We know we can do more.”

Yehya is confident there’s nothing as unique as their products on the market and Nabati Foods will look to capitalize on that as it adds more plant-based foods down the line.


July 9, 2020 – Fort Saskatchewan – The Government of Alberta today announced the Alberta Petrochemicals Incentive Program (APIP), designed to attract value-add petrochemical investments and encourage continued growth in the advanced chemical manufacturing sector. 

“The Alberta Petrochemicals Incentive Program, as announced today, will have a significant impact on enhancing the competitiveness of Alberta when attracting large scale, value-add investments, relative to other global jurisdictions,” said Mark Plamondon, Executive Director of Alberta’s Industrial Heartland Association. “This program, coupled with the other tremendous competitive advantages that Alberta’s Industrial Heartland has to offer, will contribute to the attraction of an expected $30 billion in new petrochemical investments by 2030.” 

With cost-advantaged natural resources, a diverse and skilled workforce, and world class infrastructure, including world-leading carbon capture and storage infrastructure, Alberta’s Industrial Heartland is well-positioned to leverage the new Alberta Petrochemicals Incentive Program and we believe it will help attract formidable investment to our region. With more than 95% of the world’s manufactured products relying on chemistry and value-add manufacturing, Alberta’s Industrial Heartland is part of a global supply chain that produces more than 70,000 products that we use every day. Alberta is a shining example of how jurisdictions can stimulate the economy and demonstrate environmental leadership by recognizing the importance of lowering greenhouse gas emissions. 


The Industrial Heartland region is considered a world-class location for petrochemical, manufacturing, oil and gas investment and is also Canada’s largest hydrocarbon processing region. It is a powerful economic driver for Alberta and Canada and offers attractive competitive advantages in energy diversification and industrial development. 

Alberta’s Industrial Heartland Association is dedicated to coordinating, advocating, and promoting responsible industrial development in the Heartland region. The Association is a cooperative effort of Lamont County, Strathcona County, Sturgeon County, and the Cities of Edmonton and Fort Saskatchewan. 

Media Contact: 

Tracey Hill, Manager of Communications & Community Relations 
tracey@industrialheartland.com / 780-998-7453 

Ulterra Brings Matrix Drill Bit Manufacturing to Canada with the Expansion of their Canadian Manufacturing Facility

Ulterra Drilling Technologies, one of the world’s fastest growing suppliers of PDC drill bits for the oil and gas industry, has expanded their manufacturing facility in Leduc, Alberta, Canada. The addition of this facility is part of Ulterra’s overall strategy to increase manufacturing capabilities by 70% worldwide.

The expansion involves the former United Diamond facility outside of Edmonton, where the legendary UD513 steel drill bit was manufactured. (United Diamond was acquired by Ulterra in 2007, who continued to use the United Diamond name in Canada until 2010).

Notably, Ulterra can now manufacture both steel and matrix PDC drill bits at the Leduc facility, marking the first time that matrix body drill bits have been manufactured in Canada. This ability is made possible by investments in mold machining, furnace casting and finish machining systems within the facility. The expanded facility houses a 140,000 square feet combined manufacturing footprint.

The expansion reflects Ulterra’s position of market leadership and its commitment to the Canadian market. This investment signals Ulterra’s strong growth plans within western Canadian oil and gas fields.

Strategically, the expansion helps diversify Ulterra’s supply chain, ensuring its ability to provide the industry with a stable and uninterrupted flow of both steel and matrix PDC bits worldwide.

“Canada is an important supply chain link to the northern half of the U.S. and the rest of the world,” according to Rocky Frazier, Vice President of Manufacturing at Ulterra.  “‘Made in Canada’ is a source of pride in the oil and gas industry. We chose to expand manufacturing in Canada, and we’re proud of the investment we are making to do so.”

Ulterra Drilling Technologies, L.P., is one of the fastest growing drill bit companies in the world, and a top market share leader in North America. As a leader in innovative drill bit designs, Ulterra is driven by the application and advancement of technology, yielding continuous process, product and performance improvements.

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