HicksBiz Blog

Hicks on Biz: Desperation has not yet set in for Alberta's finances - by GRAHAM HICKS, first published Edmonton Sun, February 23, 2018

This gorilla is not hiding in the closet. It’s rampaging through the whole house, in the kitchen, the living room, in every bathroom. Since 2008, for 10 years (with one exception), the Alberta government has spent more money than it has taken in. The situation has gone from bad to worse. From $1 billion in the red in 2008, to $6 to $8 billion per year earlier in this decade, to $10 billion-plus in the last two years. The accumulated deficit – the total outstanding provincial debt – is expected to hit $45 billion this year. That’s close to what the Alberta government will spend in the entire upcoming 2018-19 fiscal year! Quebec and Ontario have drowned in debt for decades, but, hey, we’re catching up. On a debt-per-capita, Alberta will be at Quebec’s level by 2023, Ontario’s by 2024. We used to have oil and gas “non-renewable resource” royalties flowing in – $10 billion a year. Then came the Great Oil Price Crash of 2014. The governmen ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks' Weekly Dish: Why not try Why Not Cafe & Bar? by GRAHAM HICKS, first published Edmonton Sun: February 20, 2018

By GRAHAM HICKS Why Not Café & Bar 8534-109 St. 780-297-5757 Whynoteat.ca Tuesday to Friday, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. (12 a.m. Fridays) Saturday, 4 p.m. to 12 a.m. Closed Sunday and Monday Dinner for two, not including tip, tax or beverage:  Basic, $40; loaded, $80 Food – 4 of 5 Suns Ambience – 3.5 of 5 Suns Service- 4 of 5 Suns The food at the Why Not Café is excellent and quite original, the ambience a bit of a hoot, the service excellent. But the portions are like that “yellow polka-dot bikini” song … itsy bitsy and teeny weeny. Owners/chefs Levi Biddlecombe and Tyson Wright (formerly of the Attila the HUNgry food truck, and, for a short stint, co-head chefs at Packrat Louie)  are proud of being renegade culinary artists. They shun the slick and fashionable: Why Not feels more like a prohibition-era  speakeasy than anything else – as if painted in dark colours on a Saturday afternoon by friends, decorated ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: Edmonton's Cowan Graphics weathers the economic storm - by GRAHAM HICKS, first published Edmonton Sun, February 16, 2018

By Graham Hicks Growing to becoming a major player in your industry … isn’t for the faint of heart. As this series of Hicks on Biz columns have shown, inherent disadvantages in growing non-oil/gas Edmonton manufacturing companies to regional, national or international proportions are usually off-set by advantages. But there’s one factor nobody can control. It’s called recession.   Ever since Blaine MacMillan took over Cowan Graphics, started by his uncle in 1945, he planned on growing the graphics company, which manufactures all kinds of large-scale advertising images. The huge Lexus ad covering the Edmonton International Airport administration building is made by Cowan.   The giant Wayne Gretzky photo at Rogers Place – made by Cowan.  Canada Post’s branding images on mail boxes across the country – produced and installed by Cowan. By 2008, MacMillan had 100% ownership of Cowan, having bought out remaining family shareholders. “By ... Read the rest of entry »

Magical, musical mayhem - The Citadel's Mamma Mia hits all the right notes: Review by GRAHAM HICKS

Mamma Mia! Citadel Theatre, Maclab Stage Edmonton, Alberta, Canada February 17 to March 18, 2018 Review by GRAHAM HICKS,  hicksbiz.com Mamma Mia, the biggest “jukebox musical” of them all, made its West End debut in 1999. Nineteen years later, the show built around the legendary pop songs of ABBA is still so popular that the Citadel Theatre’s excellent production of the same is pretty well guaranteed to sell most of the seats available for its four-week run, February 17 to March 18, 2018. The show is 19 years old! Jukebox musical is a term for a musical stage production built around the songs of a singer or a band.  Musicals have been constructed around the music of Queen, Billy Joel, Rod Stewart, more recently Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons (Jersey Boys) and Carole King. But Mamma Mia continues to tower over all the other jukebox musicals ever created. Why? Because there’s as much art, to paraphrase the late, great Edmonton Sun entertainment writer Dave B ... Read the rest of entry »

Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown - what a fun show!!!! Review by GRAHAM HICKS

Women On The Verge Of A Nervous Breakdown Plain Jane Theatre/Varscona Theatre Ensemble Varscona Theatre, 10329 83 Ave. February 15 to 24, 2018 Tues – Sat, 7:30 p.m., 2 p.m. Sat. Tickets: varsconatheatre.com Review by Graham Hicks, HicksBiz.com Hilarious! Caroming! Intelligent! Witty! What other adjectives can I use to entice you to make the effort to get out on a cold February day to catch a wonderful piece of theatre happening until Feb. 24, 2018 at the Varscona Theatre. Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown has EVERYTHING going for it!    An excellent script done with Latino/Iberian flair, great songs, eight fine comedic actors all with excellent voices, a cracker-jack live band on stage, wonderful colours and costumes, and, overall, a fine zaniness that so many shows attempt, but few pull off with such aplomb. Women on the Verge is a superior farce – far more intelligent than most:  One man with not one, not two, but three entangled r ... Read the rest of entry »

Motown the Musical - Feb.13-18 - Northern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium: Much more here then meets the eye: Review by GRAHAM HICKS, HicksBiz.com

Motown The Musical (Broadway Across Canada presentation) February 13 to 18, 2018 Northern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium Tickets  Review by GRAHAM HICKS,  HicksBiz.com Yes, Motown the Musical at Edmonton’s Jubilee Auditorium February 13 to 18, is a song ‘n’ dance extravaganza featuring some 30 highly talented triple-threat (singing, dancing, acting) actors doing the songs and the great dance moves of the legendary Motown Record Company’s artists, from The Four Tops through Diana Ross through Stevie Wonder. But the show is far more interesting, much deeper and more complex than what would be expected. It’s a fascinating deep dive into American culture, race relations, politics and the entertainment business of the 1950s to 1980s. It revolves around one businessman/artist who single-handedly bought “coloured music” into the mainstream of American pop music. Berry Gordy is a mass of walking contradictions, which makes the story ever so interesting. A bri ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks' Weekly Dish: Return to RGE RD a delectable treat By GRAHAM HICKS, first published Edmonton Sun, February 13, 2018

RGE RD 10643 123 St. 780-447-4577 rgerd.ca Monday to Saturday, 5 p.m. to midnight Closed Sundays Dinner for two, not including tip, tax or beverage:  Basic, $60; loaded, $120 Food – 5 of 5 Suns Ambience – 4 of 5 Suns Service- 4.5 of 5 Suns In 2013, when RGE RD was just three months old, The Weekly Dish awarded the restaurant an extremely rare 5 out of a possible of 5 Suns for its food. I am delighted, ecstatic in fact, that a return visit almost five years later has earned Blair Lebsack’s restaurant yet another perfect, 5 of 5 Sun rating for its food. Everything was as good, if not better than that impressive showing in 2013 — one of the only differences being the need these days to make a prime-time reservation many weeks ahead. Chef Lebsack, who left a comfortable job teaching at the NAIT culinary school to launch what was then a bold experiment, has stuck clearly and calmly to the same food philosophy that has guided RGE RD since conception. He sticks as clo ... Read the rest of entry »

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 »
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