Chamber’s panel discussion focuses on industries that drive the local economy

The relationship between the City of Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan Polytechnic, and 15 Wing Air Base is so economically intertwined that anything that happens to one entity usually affects the others.

The relationship between the City of Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan Polytechnic, and 15 Wing Air Base is so economically intertwined that anything that happens to one entity usually affects the others.

The Moose Jaw and District Chamber of Commerce held their annual general meeting on September 22nd at the Heritage Inn. In a panel discussion, representatives of the three groups spoke on the topic of “motors of the local economy”.

Jim Dixon is the city’s economic development manager, and Kristin Craig is associate dean of Sask’s School of Business and Information and Communications Technology. Polytech and Scott Greenough are Operations Managers of CAE, which provides flight simulators to train 15 wing trainees.

The local economy

Dixon explained that at least 70 percent of the new jobs will come from expanding existing businesses within the community. This means that a healthy business climate is crucial for existing businesses to thrive and new positions to be created.

“You’re watching,” Dixon said.

For example, he pointed to Canadian Tire’s new store twice the size of the old building, the current construction of new businesses on the same site, the expansion of the former XL Beef Plant by Donald’s Fine Foods, and the formation of Brandt Industries Trailer -Production facility.

“These are good signs of a healthy community,” he added.

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Benefits of Sask. Polytech

Craig explained that over 200 people work at the Moose Jaw campus, while approximately 2,600 students study here annually. Many are international students, and while she didn’t have statistics on how many remain, Craig found that 94 percent of graduates remain in the province. These alumni and the institution contribute $2.2 billion annually to Saskatchewan’s economy.

Meanwhile, the school is spending $15.6 million on its Moose Jaw campus to improve its trade programs and new diploma program in agriculture and food.

“Really great things are happening on the Moose Jaw campus alone,” added Craig.

support student pilots

Greenough explained that a World War II veteran founded Canadian Aviation Electronics (CAE) in 1947 in Montreal, where it has been headquartered for 75 years.

The company is a full-tier aerospace company focused on civil aviation, defense and security, and healthcare. It employs 13,000 people worldwide, including 5,000 in Canada and about 200 in Moose Jaw.

CAE has been training pilots at 15 Wing Air Base for decades, but in the late 1990s the Canadian Armed Forces brought in other branches to support other aspects of the training, Greenough said. Today, CAE offers ground-based training programs, including academic and simulator training.

“Our technicians are primarily responsible for the maintenance of these aircraft. So we have a little over 22 of the turboprops and a little under 20 of the Hawk jets that you see flying around…” he continued.

CAE also manages site services such as building maintenance, building remodeling, navigation maintenance, air traffic control, canteen and catering.

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Projects that boost the economy

The economic impact that the former XL Beef Plant and Great Plains Power Station will have on Moose Jaw’s economy will be “great” considering they need services like housing and restaurants for their workers, Dixon said.

Dixon recently toured the power station and thought it was impressive, especially with all the cranes on site. He noted that construction manager Burns and McDonnell (B&M) provided City Hall with numerous statistics on the project, while City Hall learned from the city of Swift Current that its new power plant – which B&M oversaw construction – was having a positive impact.

In addition, a visit to the sow processing plant was also positive, although more outside contractors are being used as fewer provincial companies could be found, continued Dixon. However, all these workers bring new money into the community, which is a “win-win” scenario.

“The effects are impressive and we are experiencing them now and we should embrace them,” he added.

Training students for jobs

There are over 20 programs at Sask. Polytech’s Moose Jaw campus, while the organization adds new programs annually to meet the needs of the industry, Craig said. The institution is also trying to align its services with the province’s 2030 growth plan.

Some of the larger programs on the Moose Jaw campus include the business schools; Information and communicationtechnology; mining, engineering and manufacturing; natural resources and built environment; and shops.

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“We make a big contribution to the local economy by cultivating these students… and then sending them into industry in many areas,” added Craig.

longevity of the company

CAE’s 75th anniversary is a “pretty big milestone,” especially in the airline industry, Greenough said. The company started in an old wartime hangar in Montreal and has grown into a globally recognized brand that has become the leading manufacturer of flight sims.

“[It’s]a solid product, solid reputation … and it delivers all the time,” he noted.

Greenough added that many Sask. Polytech graduates work at the airbase, including technicians who solve some of CAE’s biggest engineering problems.

future economic growth

There are many opportunities for economic growth in Moose Jaw and the region, Dixon said. For example, City Hall is developing the 342-acre Agri-Food Industrial Park and wants to attract businesses focused on agriculture, food processing and production.

City Hall also dedicated a piece of land to Sask. Polytech’s Agricultural and Food Diploma Program.

“We’re really excited about this program,” said Craig.

There are opportunities at the industrial park to use geothermal energy that can help reduce greenhouse gases, Dixon continued. Solar and green electricity could also be used there.

“We will work with Sask. Poly and whoever we can to develop those opportunities…” he noted. “Gibson Refinery has (also) expressed interest in geothermal as an opportunity.”

Dixon added that City Hall also wants to work more with First Nations groups.

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