Issue 38

From Humble Beginnings to International Operations

In this edition we get a chance to see the arc of growth and development that begins with audacious entrepreneurs (Prairie Robotics) and continues into the story of amazing companies that have humble local roots and transition into international operations (iQmetrix). Those are two Regina companies that remind us that starting and growing businesses is the best and smartest way to grow our economy in the long run. It is the truth behind the Audacity movement that is celebrating the people who risk everything to bring new companies to life in the GRA, who create jobs and prosperity for the community.

These folks are the very definition of Thinking BIG!


Rob Vanderhooft of Regina, CEO and Chief Investment Officer of TD Greystone Managed Investments, has been named Senior Vice President and Chief Investment Officer of TD Asset Management, TD bank’s national investment arm, which has assets of $366.9 billion under management. We’re pleased to learn that Rob will continue to reside and keep his office in Regina. Rob is just one of many Regina-based executives who are leading national or international companies (e.g. Shaun Semple of Brandt, Jeff Stusek at ISC, Murad Al-Katib with AGT), and we are fortunate to have them work and live in the GRA.


Congratulations to Prairie Robotics of Regina – winners of the Saskatchewan Innovation Challenge. It is great to see these local entrepreneurs getting a chance to strut their stuff.


By Bruce Johnstone

As chief architect of the Big Dig – the $18-million project in 2003-2004 to rehabilitate Regina’s run-down, weed-infested Wascana Lake — Wayne Clifton is closely associated with the city and ongoing efforts to improve its image.

“It’s been a bit of a signature project for us, for sure,” said Clifton, founder, chairman and CEO of Clifton Engineering Group (formerly Clifton Associates), in a recent interview for Think Big Regina.

So it was no surprise when Clifton agreed to participate in Economic Development Regina’s Investment Partnership program, which aims to raise more than $1 million to help EDR raise Regina’s profile as a great place to live, work and invest.

“Our philosophy is very clear. We support local initiatives, no matter whether it’s local charities or local businesses, the local chamber or professional associations. They only thrive if they’re given sustenance from the community.’’

“We know which side our bread is buttered on.’’

The Regina-based company, which has six offices and 250 employees in Saskatchewan and Alberta, as of 2018, is contributing $30,000 over three years to EDR through the IP program.

As the largest independent consulting engineering firm in the province, Clifton Engineering Group has been involved in thousands of projects across the province, the nation and the world.

Since its founding in Regina in 1978, Clifton Engineering Group has become synonymous with the city it has operated in for more than 40 years. And Clifton is very much the public face of the company.

During his more than 50-year career, Clifton has received many awards, including an Honorary Doctor of Science degree from the U of S and a lifetime achievement award from the Association of Consulting Engineering Companies-Canada.

But Clifton knows that, in business and in life, success cannot be achieved without planning and partners.

“You have to take the very long view. The health of the university is a major factor because we rely on the skills and qualifications that are produced there. The health of the business community is very important.’’

“It’s been gratifying to see Regina turn the corner in the last couple of decades. Going from an era when city council couldn’t get along with the business community to now having the (city council), the business community and the economic development initiatives aligned, good things are happening.’’

EDR itself is a reflection of the more collaborative approach city hall, senior government and business leaders are taking towards economic development these days.

“One of the things (EDR staff) have been doing over the last several years is providing strong, intelligent leadership. They’ve got very broad knowledge of the economy, what makes this regional economy and the provincial economy work.”

“They’re working in concert and in alignment with what the players in the economy are trying to do.’’

Clifton said small cities, like Regina, shouldn’t be competing with other small cities, like Saskatoon, for jobs. “Our competition is more likely to be in Beijing or Singapore.’’

Instead of competing with each other, Prairie cities should be collaborating to take on our international competitors.

“If you look at the whole concept of the Prairie village, which is the interconnection of the Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta economies — where you’ve got Winnipeg, Edmonton, Calgary, Saskatoon, Regina all linked as an economic unit — it’s very potent connection.’’

That’s why organizations, like EDR, are needed to help build the consensus and collaboration required to undertake large-scale “transformational’’ projects, like the recently announced Protein Industries Canada (PIC) supercluster, which is based in Regina but encompasses the entire Prairie region.

“One of the advantages of Economic Development Regina is that it brings a lot of good minds to the table. If we can agree on a vision and a strategic direction, I have no doubt that there is ample talent in this community and regionally… that can make good things happen.”

Learn more at:


iQmetrix is a company started by Regina entrepreneurs that has grown into an international success story. This month they are celebrating their twentieth year in business. We salute this audacious group!


By Bruce Johnstone

In this last two-part instalment of Economic Development 101, I wanted to show how the concepts of economic development – acting collaboratively, building on strengths and levering public dollars to stimulate private investment – are being put into action by Economic Development Regina.

I wanted to talk to people who were very familiar with EDR, but were equally familiar with economic development and economics. I also was looking for people with an “insider’s view’’ of EDR, but weren’t directly employed by the organization.

Accordingly, I interviewed Mayor Michael Fougere and EDR vice-chair Frank Hart, who were involved with EDR from the beginning, and have extensive backgrounds in the fields of economic development and economics. Both have unique perspectives of the role that EDR plays, its organizational structure, staff and programs

In the final two instalments of this series of stories, I offer excerpts from those interviews. They have been edited and condensed for the sake of brevity.

Mayor Michael Fougere was first elected mayor of Regina in 2012 after serving five terms as a municipal councillor. Fougere, who studied at the London School of Economics where he obtained a Master’s of Science degree, has spent much of his professional career in the economic development field.

Q: Why did the city adopt the model of an arm’s length agency to promote economic growth?

MF: “The model has to be, and continues to be today, that we receive expertise and advice from those in the community, government and private sector, who know how to create jobs and create investment here and retain business here. It’s not the core business of the City of Regina or any municipality.”

“So you have an outside agency that brings together people with a lot of background, very smart people who know what they’re doing and you ask their advice as a city: What should we do? What should we focus on? What are our key strengths and natural strengths? How do we develop a strategy that will enhance growth, opportunity, prosperity?”

“And that’s how you pay for those services, by increasing your tax base, increasing diversity, increasing the number of companies that come here, and retaining businesses here that would like to grow and need the opportunity to grow.’’

Q: You’ve said in the past that governments don’t create jobs; the private sector does. Why then do we have an economic development agency with significant city funding?

MF: “Governments don’t create jobs or create investment; they create the environment for growth. So the tax regime, the (investment) attraction regime, are all based on providing the groundwork or blueprint for growth.”

“We can’t do it on our own; it’s not our core business. So we seek advice from an arm’s-length organization that can provide that advice to us – a strategy, a blueprint, a roadmap of how we can see this happen.”

Q: Last year, Protein Industries Canada (PIC) was chosen as one of five successful bidders under the federal government’s $950-milllion superclusters initiative in Canada. Regina, which will serve as the head office of PIC, could also stand to benefit as the home of one of the world’s largest pulse crop processors, AGT. How important is this announcement?

MF: “We have a significant federal investment ($153 million in PIC). We have an even larger private sector investment. The private sector has bought into this vision of replacing meat-based protein with plant-based protein as a way to feed (the planet) for the future. This is our natural strength.”

“Aside from the large amount of money that’s being invested by all parties, we’re going to encourage new companies to develop new technologies, new markets. That’s critical.”

“We’re going to do it in Saskatchewan, we’re going to do it in Regina (with the potential for) 4,500 jobs, $5 billion over the next 10 years in GDP growth. That’s real economic development.’’

Q: What role does EDR play in making projects like PIC happen?

MF: “I’m really proud of what EDR does as an organization. We have one of the strongest boards I’ve ever been on. There’s a lot of brain power around the table, like AGT president and CEO) Murad Al-Katib, and TD Greystone President Frank Hart.’’

“They (EDR’s board and staff) have hit it out of the park. PIC is just one example of how they’ve been able to take up the challenge, then craft that strategy for you and then they land PIC’s head office here.’’

Q: What else is EDR doing to stimulate growth in Regina?

MF: “We’ve talked about how EDR can lever our money — the $1.8 million in seed money that we give them every year — to diversify away from us as a major source of funding. How do you do that? (The Investment Partnership program which is generating over $1.2 million in private sector investment to EDR) and other things are ways of getting private sector money come in for their services. It’s been very successful.’’

Q: How do you measure the return on investment or the success of EDR programs?

MF: “Growth is happening, new people are moving into the community. We have a growing population in our city. All of those things are benchmarks.”

“PIC is an example, when it starts to get traction, of what will be a major shift in our economy away from basic agriculture, oil and gas.’’

Q: Is it hard to get more money from city council for EDR’s annual budget, especially in an era of restraint and slow economic growth?

MF: “No. This past year it was not a hard sell. It was unanimous support by council for EDR’s budget. Five or six years ago, it was a different conversation. Now, success by EDR, the leveraging of other government and private sector monies, has been substantial. There really has been no questioning (of EDR’s budget).”

Q: But spending money on economic development doesn’t always produce immediate results. It’s a bit of a leap of faith, isn’t it?

MF: “Economic development is an art. It’s about people and relationships that happen over time. But what’s been good about EDR is that they’ve had some quick results, substantial results and sustained results, too.”

In our next and final instalment, I’ll talk to a key volunteer who brings that way of thinking into focus.


This month we have a chance to celebrate innovation in Canada during Canadian Innovation Week. It’s a great opportunity to put the spotlight on all of the companies and people who are shaping the future with their ideas and willingness to think out of the box.

Learn more here: