Written by Amir Karim, President & CEO, Polykar Inc.
Yesterday, my company Polykar, a world-class manufacturer of sustainable packing solutions and recently named one of Canada’s Best Managed Companies, officially broke ground for a 50,000 square foot manufacturing facility at Discovery Business Park in Edmonton.
Based in Montreal, Polykar was seeking to expand westwards. We looked at many options, including U.S. locations and other Canadian provinces. But in the final analysis, we determined that Alberta, and specifically Edmonton, offered the best prospects for spurring our company’s growth and success.
There are some who have expressed surprise regarding our choice. Alberta, they say, is in decline. The challenges in getting commodities like oil and gas to market and the COVID-19 pandemic have taken the wind out of the province’s sails.
But what I observed in this province and city as an entrepreneur provided me with a vastly different image.
For example, during our recruitment of qualified personnel and managers, I found a highly educated and skilled workforce that is ambitious, hardworking, and willing to join us in this journey to build a sustainable presence in the city.
While in Canadian folklore, Alberta is a province of cowboys and oilfield workers, its population is surprisingly multicultural – creating the very cultural richness and different viewpoints that our company needs to successfully transplant our corporate culture. That is because at Polykar, a company founded by my immigrant parents, we have always seen a diverse workforce as a source of strength, rather than a burden.
Alberta also shares our commitment to creating a truly sustainable circular economy in plastics. Our focus areas include polyethylene film for converters, garbage bags made entirely from recycled materials, certified compostable bags and food and industrial flexible packaging. We have also developed solid expertise in post-industrial and post-commercial plastic film recycling.
In that regard, in addition to employment, our presence here will bring three important benefits for the region:
First, we will generate more of the value-added manufacturing right here in Edmonton, AB, rather than the industry simply exporting plastic pellets to other markets.
Second, we will play a significant role in reducing plastic waste in the province and contributing to a circular economy. Indeed, among other initiatives, our plant will house a Centre of Excellence for the development and commercialization of compostable packaging.
And third, on the occasion of Polykar’s expansion into Alberta, we want to express our gratitude for the warm welcome we received in the province. Through the Polykar Foundation, we are donating $50,000 to the University of Alberta’s Faculty of Extension. These funds will serve to create a new pilot program entitled Micro-Credentials: Communication Skills for the Workplace. This program is targeted at the upskilling needs of newcomers to Canada and students.
My message to Edmonton and all of Alberta is that you should have confidence in the future. It is time to change the narrative, focusing on the great assets you have, including a business-enabling environment and an incredible talent pool.
I would also encourage the province’s policymakers to think SMALL rather than BIG.
I come from a province, Quebec, that seldom had the large multinationals and branch plants set up in our province – they mostly went to Ontario. Instead, Quebec built an economy based on small and medium-sized firms in niche businesses to ensure its prosperity. In my view, Edmonton and Alberta generally should think less about megaprojects and instead harness the entrepreneurship of its highly skilled citizens.
We are excited to enter this next chapter of the Polykar story – and not only become part of the Edmonton community but also herald an era of innovation in the plastics industry.