HicksBiz Blog

Hicks on Biz: Edmonton's economy cuts a diverse path By GRAHAM HICKS, first published Edmonton Sun, February 9, 2018

My eyes have been opened as never before. Having visited four manufacturing businesses in Edmonton that operate independently of the carbon-based energy (i.e. oil, gas, coal) sector, I can now envision a pragmatic, optimistic economic future for Edmonton in a world using less carbon fuels. All four leaders interviewed – Richard Meunier of RAM Elevators & Lifts, Denis Taschuk of Radient Technologies, Joe Makowecki of Heritage Frozen Foods (Cheemo Perogies), Chris Labossiere of Yardstick Testing – say Edmonton is a pretty good place to do business. But there’s a crying need for an overall, coordinated economic diversification strategy on the part of all governments operating in Alberta. File all those business failure excuses –  distance from markets, alleged over-taxation, skill shortages, lack of capital, over-regulation, socialists in power – in that round file marked G.   Doing business out of Edmonton, these leaders say, is no better, no w ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks' Weekly Dish: Cibo Bistro offers consistently tasty Italian cuisine By GRAHAM HICKS, first published Edmonton Sun, February 6, 2018

Cibo Bistro 11244 104 Ave. (Oliver Square) 780-757-2426 Cibobistro.com Tues. to Fri. 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Sat. 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Closed Sun. and Mon. Dinner for two, excluding tip and beverages: basic, $80; loaded, $170 Food: 4.5 of 5 Suns Ambience: 4 of 5 Suns Service: 4 of 5 Suns By GRAHAM HICKS Question of the day: After six years under executive chef and partner Rosario Caputo, should Cibo Bistro (in Oliver Square, just off the downtown) be considered one of the Top 10 restaurants in Edmonton? I hate to say ‘on the one hand’, or ‘yes but’, or ‘it depends’. But … it depends! If the criteria is primarily top quality, visual presentation and consistently excellent food, yes. But if inventiveness and innovation are high on your list, no. Chef Caputo is not in the business of being daring. He sticks to his knitting, being high-end Italian dining. The most exciting he gets is ox or pork cheeks. But that which emerges from ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: Heritage Foods, Cheemo Perogies an Edmonton success story By GRAHAM HICKS, first published Edmonton Sun, February 2, 2018

This column is the fourth in a series looking at manufacturing companies in Edmonton that are unrelated to the oil patch. The provincial environment minister herself has clearly suggested Alberta should be preparing for a fossil-fuel free future. Which is a tall order. As ATB Financial economist Rob Roach points out, the $80 billion a year oil-and-gas business in Alberta is the equivalent of the entire Ontario manufacturing sector – in a province four times our size. Which also begs the question: Just how much manufacturing in Metro Edmonton now happens outside the oil/gas/petrochemical energy sector. What do those companies need to grow? Today, Hicks on Biz looks at the food-processing sector, as represented by Heritage Frozen Foods – best known through its premiere brand, Cheemo Perogies. When Walter Makowecki started making Cheemo perogies in 1972, nobody outside the Ukrainian-Canadian community knew what perogies – Ukrainian/Eastern European dumplings traditionall ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks' Weekly Dish: El Fogon Latino offering tasty, authentic Venezuelan fare By GRAHAM HICKS, first published Edmonton Sun, January 30, 2018

El Fogon Latino 8026 118 Ave. 780-756-8388 el-fogon-latino.com Food: 4 of 5 Suns Ambience: 2 of 5 Suns Service: 4 of 5 Suns Mon. to Sat. 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sun. 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Dinner for two, excluding beverages and tip: basic, $16; loaded, $40. This reviewer has a soft spot for mom ‘n’ pop restaurants, where there’s been no million-dollar redesign, no swishy menu, no college-aged servers in black skirts and high heels who know nothing about the food they are serving. Just mom and dad, with the kids (grown-up or teenagers) helping out. The food is authentic, simple and, if you’re lucky, incredibly tasty. So it is with the second new Venezuelan/Latino restaurant in town. El Fogon Latino is on 118 Avenue, where many family-run ethnic eateries are born. Kevin Goncalves and his poppa Antonio Marcelino run the front and back of El Fogon, which in Spanish means the family hearth, as in an old-fashioned, outdoor, wood-burning oven. I’m sure there’s a momma somew ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: Yardstick Testing and Training leading local IT sector By GRAHAM HICKS, first published Edmonton Sun, January 25, 2018

How is Edmonton doing in “diversifying” its manufacturing base, lessening our dependence — as so many politicians keep saying must be done — on industries based on oil and gas? This series of Hicks on Biz columns is an attempt to understand the size of the challenge. In previous and upcoming columns, I’ve visited Edmonton companies not directly tied to the fortunes of the oil patch, to find out the challenges and advantages of making and selling non-oil-related products out of Edmonton. Chris LaBoissiere, co-founder and CEO of the rapidly growing online testing and training company Yardstick, has long been an active business leader in Edmonton. He brings valuable perspective of the city’s information technology (IT) sector as a whole, and the challenges of growing Yardstick Testing and Training in particular. The company is a leader in the complex business of providing online training, testing and certification, especially for regulated businesses where safety a ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks' Weekly Dish: Hot time for hot dogs! By GRAHAM HICKS, first published Edmonton Sun, January 23, 2018

Montreal Hot Dogs 10503 104 Ave. (Quest Condo Tower) 780-909-4878 montrealhotdogs.ca Mon. to Thurs. 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Fri. 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Sat. 10:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Sun. 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Dinner for two, excluding tip and beverages: basic, $15; loaded, $30 Food:  3.5 of 5 Suns Ambience: 3 of 5 Suns Service: 3 of 5 Suns *** Mayday Dogs 10359B 104 St. (Mercer Building) 587-989-5456 maydaydogs.com Tues. to Sat. noon to 8 p.m. (closed Sun. and Mon.) Dinner for two, excluding tip and beverages: basic, $15; loaded, $40 Food:  4 of 5 Suns Ambience: 4 of 5 Suns Service: 3.5 of 5 Suns Two new hot dog shops, but still no great hot dog wieners! Within weeks of each other, two hot dog emporiums have opened, one block from each other, within spitting distance of Rogers Place. Both start with a traditional wiener in a bun. Surprisingly, both have only one standard wiener. That’s where the similarity ends. Their toppings are from different planets. Montreal Hot ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: Radient Technologies part of thriving biotech sector By GRAHAM HICKS, first published Edmonton Sun, January 19, 2018

Two weeks ago, this column set out on a quixotic research expedition: to find out how much manufacturing in Metro Edmonton happens outside the oil/gas/petrochemical energy sector and to talk to the CEOs of such companies, find out how they succeeded in a city that traditionally draws its wealth from public sector employment and the oil patch. For all the concern and tongue-wag about “diversification,” nobody really knows the actual numbers. Statistics Canada, the No. 1 provider of such information in this country, places oil and gas processing and product manufacturing for the oilpatch into the catch-all “manufacturing” basket. Because the information isn’t available, Edmonton Economic Development Corporation tackles diversification by assisting Edmonton companies of all stripes to expand their customer base beyond Alberta.  Trying to classify Edmonton’s manufacturing companies as being in or out of the oilpatch would be an expensive exercise without a tangibl ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks' Weekly Dish: Salz Bratwurst Co. is big taste in a small package By GRAHAM HICKS, first published Edmonton Sun, January 16, 2018

SALZ BRATWURST CO. 10556 115 ST. 780-599-7259 EATSALZ.CA Tues. to Sat. 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Closed Sun/Mon Dinner for two, excluding tip and beverages: $20; loaded, $30 Food:  4 of 5 Suns Ambience: 3 of 5 Suns Service: 4 of 5 Suns Let there be no denial.  Small is beautiful. Salz Bratwurst Co is the cutest miniature beer hall/sausage house you have ever seen, a hole-in-the-wall on 115 Street south of 107 Avenue, with two long tables to sit at and a TV to watch the Oilers.On the chalkboard menu were three choices of made-in-house bratwurst sausage (with or without the piggy-in-a-blanket bun), goulash, currywurst, three salads, cheesy spätzle and Butcher’s Cake, described as charcuterie within a bread pudding mix. The meat dishes are constant. The sides – such as pretzels, dumplings and perogies – take their turns in the daily line-up. Behind the simple bar are two draft-beer taps, through which are rotated made-in-Alberta, German-style craft beers.  The Fah ... Read the rest of entry »

HICKS ON BIZ: Departing EEDC boss leaves a strong, positive legacy: By GRAHAM HICKS first published Edmonton Sun, January 15, 2018

Brad Ferguson, the boss of Edmonton’s  Edmonton Economic Development Corporation (EEDC), is stepping down at the end of March after five  years on the job. He can ride off with his head held high. The job is political. The head of EEDC,  a city/business economic development partnership, can pretty well define what he or she wants the job to be. Ferguson’s a marketing guy from head to toes.  He’s all about “image” and “branding” – all those intangible aspects of business regarded by many as unnecessary, or, at best, a necessary evil. But remember, marketing made a sugar and fizzy water drink called Coca Cola that did US$41.6 billion in sales in 2016. What Ferguson did in his five years – which is the average time on the job for his four predecessors  – was to find and define Edmonton’s soul. How he went about that major task was a classic illustration of what good – great – marketing is all about. ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks' Weekly Dish: Pip offers solid entrees, but falters on dessert By GRAHAM HICKS, first published Edmonton Sun, January 10, 2018

Pip 10403 83 Ave 780-760-4747 pipyeg.com 10 a.m. to 11 p.m., seven days a week Brunch, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Dinner for two, excluding tip and beverages: basic, $40; loaded, $80 Food:  3.75 of 5 Suns Ambience: 4 of 5 Suns| Service: 4 of 5 Suns Chefs take note: The last dish, the dessert, can cut the deepest. Following a most pleasant dinner at Pip, a dessert was sent to our table that ought never to have left the kitchen. Pip’s pineapple upside-down cake sounded tasty.  Our server, who had proved quite reliable in her suggestionsto that point, had described it in glowing terms. Alas, said cake tasted as if it had been languishing in a cooler for a day or two – cold, thick, chewy, the rum caramel sauce slightly leaden, the entire concoction unredeemed by a mighty dollop of whipped cream. Instead of leaving the new, mini-sized Old Strathcona eatery on a culinary high, happily reliving the evening’s highlights, we walked out feeling deflated, disappointed, the taste o ... Read the rest of entry »