This is Part 1 of a 3-part series Planes, trains and…boats? Rethinking the global connectivity of the Edmonton Metropolitan Region.
Did you know the Edmonton Metropolitan Region’s geographic location gives us a natural competitive advantage when it comes to accessing Asia via air?
In fact, for businesses considering expanding into North America, where strong ties to Asia are important to their business operations, the Edmonton region is a great location to choose for their investment destination. The same is true for Asian companies looking to build a North American presence.
Being the northernmost major city in North America may create the impression that the Edmonton region is remote or isolated. But that only holds if you perceive the world as flat. The reality is that when it comes to evaluating our connection to the world, it all depends on where you are going.
Part of the problem is that we often picture the world and our connection to Asia like this:
When we should be thinking about the world as a globe – in which case, the concept of closeness should be turned on its head, quite literally.
When we shift our perceptions, we can see that Edmonton is closer to Beijing and Guangzhou than any city in the lower 48 states. Edmonton also out-competes most North American jurisdictions in proximity to Seoul, Tokyo and Manila. In the case of Seoul, Seattle is the only American jurisdiction closer than Edmonton (and just barely).
Our proximity to Asia makes the Edmonton region strategically relevant to North American and Asian companies building bridges between the two continents. Our region has long been known as the “Gateway to the North” and we’re still an important hub for Canada’s arctic. In today’s economy, where global supply chains can create competitive advantage, “Gateway to Asia” is equally apt.
When it comes to our connectedness by air, there’s some other things about our region and the Edmonton International Airport (EIA) that I think are particularly interesting and relevant.
Infrastructure and expertise in the safe and efficient handling of air cargo are critically important to businesses wanting to enter global markets – EIA has both and has become an important hub for air cargo. From 2014 to 2018, EIA increased the international overseas exports from its facilities by 25 times; in 2020 the airport and its partners handled 46,000 metric tonnes of cargo. EIA seamlessly connects with both major class 1 rail lines in Canada as well as a highway system connecting across North America. The region’s proximity to the Port of Prince Rupert and the Port of Vancouver also makes it a strategic location for those who need to ship by sea (more on that in a future edition).
Air cargo is the ideal mode of transportation for low volume, high value exports like pharmaceuticals and nutraceuticals or small electronics like sensors or communications hardware – all areas where the Edmonton region has considerable expertise. In February 2021, a major expansion was announced that will extend EIA’s capabilities for primary cargo handling, cold storage and refuelling. EIA is also the largest airport in Canada by land size. EIA has developed 7,000 acres of land as part of Airport City, a hub of innovation and economic development for the region and beyond.
EIA is also the only airport in Canada with the globally recognized CEIV Pharma certification from the International Air Transport Association. This means EIA meets the highest standards in the world for handling temperature-sensitive cargo such as agriculture and food products as well as pharmaceutical and medical cargo. Whether its shipping Canadian cherries and lobster to Asia or importing sensitive COVID vaccines, EIA has proven itself as a key distribution and logistics hub for intercontinental air cargo.
Another major strategic advantage for our region is access to jet fuel. In November 2020, Royal Dutch Shell announced its operations in the Edmonton region’s City of Fort Saskatchewan will remain one of only 6 Shell refinery operations globally. This, combined with Shell’s announced commitment to net-zero emissions will mean that carriers with operations at the EIA will have a local supply of sustainable jet fuel, leveraging key infrastructure assets in the region such as the Quest carbon capture and sequestration project.
In 2015 the federal Government designated the Edmonton region as a Foreign Trade Zone (FTZ). This designation means investors are eligible for duty and tax relief when they use the region as a location to manufacture a portion of their products that are then exported into international markets as made-in-Canada products.
The Edmonton region, by nature of its geography, is an attractive bridge between North America and Asia and should be a top location consideration for companies looking to invest in their next air cargo logistics hub or manufacturing facility. At Edmonton Global, we’ve branded the region around our international airport code, YEG. We’re young, educated and growing – and we’re globally connected, to Asia and beyond.
Jeff Bell is the Director of Research and Business Intelligence at Edmonton Global. His knowledge is a mile wide and an inch deep – and when a question arises, he enjoys digging deep into the data to provide solid defensible research that can inform strategy. His network includes a broad range of experts, so if he doesn’t have the answer, he knows where to get it.
Reach out to Jeff below with any interesting facts about our region’s global competitiveness that you’d like him to know about.
Read more about our region’s global connectivity