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Robert Fernandez | Director | Economic Diversification

Parkland County: A Thriving Business Community Supported with a Robust Transportation Ecosystem 

Nestled 20 kilometers west of the City of Edmonton, Parkland County is a municipal district in central Alberta, Canada. With an idyllic setting, this rural community offers a distinctively vibrant atmosphere with an assortment of country residential acreages, farming properties, and a diverse range of small- and large-scale businesses. Most importantly Parkland County offers an environment that is conducive for business success and growth.

An Easy Access to Distribution Networks
One of the most appealing aspects of this western Canadian locale is excellent transportation/logistics infrastructure and networks that offer companies easy access to both domestic and international markets. Transportation advantages include quick connections via air, rail, and major trucking routes which support incoming and outgoing distribution of Alberta’s resource industries and supply chains. Such transportation connectivity is readily embraced today by most of the leading large logistics and e-commerce providers such as Fedex, Gregg Distributors, Sysco and several other local logistics companies, A number of transportation companies such as Overland Container Transportation Services (OCTS), Bushell Transport, Manatoulin Transport, Roseneau Transport are also present that support the large logistics and transportation operators.

Located adjacent to the county is Edmonton International Airport (EIA), the largest airport in Canada by size, which runs 24/7 operating 365 days of the year. It has six cargo handling terminals right onsite with 40 state border and customs brokers. Also, the flight distances between Edmonton and main Asian markets are significantly shorter than other logistics ports in North America due to the polar flight route.
Moreover, the county has lots of available land, has short approval timelines when it comes to the processing of permits and the county’s fees and taxes are some of the lowest in all of Alberta.

Turning Challenges into Opportunities
“We are all equally affected by COVID but not equally impacted by it,” says Robert Fernandez, Director of Economic Diversification at Parkland County.

Being located outside a main city core gives Parkland County the benefit of a large employment base nearby. That said, since we do not have the same population density that other jurisdictions and regions have, the county has thankfully been less impacted by COVID,” he adds.

According to Robert, the logistics industry in Canada is thriving. It certainly has challenges such as finding qualified staff and long driving hours as Canada is a very big country. But with all of those challenges also come opportunities through technological advancements. Technological developments such as self-driving technologies will help abate driving distances and address driver fatigue. Nearby in Edmonton is the first connected vehicle test site in Canada, where tests are being undertaken for the development of self-driving vehicle technologies in interconnected ways. Some companies are really taking advantage of the testing opportunities there and looking at how technology innovations can transform the logistics industry.

“The logistics industry as a whole and logistics businesses located in Parkland County’s industrial parks, has been hugely impacted in a positive way by the pandemic,” says Robert. “E-commerce transactions, online shopping, and demand for traditional seasonal goods, day to day staples, food and supplies have been growing exponentially.”

A Proficient Leader
The economic diversification of Parkland County is led by Robert Fernandez. He joined Parkland County in the summer of 2019 and brings with him extensive experience in both the public and private sectors. During the course of his 20+ year career, he has had the opportunity to develop multifaceted government programs, lead municipal and provincial economic strategies, facilitate private-sector job growth, and assist dozens of companies in their relocation and expansion pursuits.

Parkland County traditionally has had a very strong industrial base supported for many decades by the proximity of energy production, notably coal; this in turn has supported the local economy and taxation base. With coal now being phased out and the multiple coal plants no longer in operation, the need to attract alternative industries to leverage existing workforce and talent has become a major strategic objective for the county. The role of Robert and his team is to oversee the creation and execution of strategies to attract new corporate investments to the county.

A Roadmap Ahead
Parkland County is working with developers to further grow its industrial and commercial base. Given the exponential increase of e-commerce transactions and online shopping great attention is being given to the transportation/distribution sector and Robert and his team are actively pursuing logistics companies, of all sizes. With current lots zoned for industrial development expected to sell out over the next five to seven years the county is also actively working at expanding the existing footprint of industrial parks and establishing new ones.