With the local economy struggling these past few years, innovation is a key component of our economic prosperity going forward. Not only do we have to think in different ways about the fundamentals of our economy, we have to do a complete rethink of what that future economic picture may look like.
In years past, no matter the struggles in agriculture, gas production and the manufacturing industry, we have had oil to fall back on. That is no longer the case, at least for the next few years if what the experts are saying is correct.
So what do we do in the mean time? Mothball our economy and wait for the oily good times to come back? That will serve no one in the area very well.
He who stands still will often find life passing him by.
Last week in the hamlet of Dunmore we witnessed an example of a forward thinking business making a strategic investment in its own future. LMT Enterprises, owned now by three generations of the Meier family, has plans to expand and grow by over a third in the next few years as it moves into new areas of endeavour.
It is also seeking out greater efficiencies within its existing operations. Such efficiencies include investing in a state of the art heating system which allows one large boiler to service its entire consortium of sub-companies on its 40 acre lot at a huge winter cost savings to the company. It has also invested in the Medicine Hat region’s largest solar array to offset 25-30 per cent of its energy costs in an interesting lease-to-own agreement structure with Enmax.
In the world we live in today any savings can be counted as profit. But it goes well beyond that. In speaking with LMT’s current co-owner and president Terry Meier last Wednesday during the ribbon cutting ceremony for his solar array he said something which is fundamentally important for every business owner to hear: Success as a company must be gauged by how ready that business it to deal with the realities of an ever-changing economy from one year to the next.
That means being flexible and agile, being willing break new ground by taking on new challenges, and being willing to innovate in any aspect of your business which will improve the efficiency of overall operations.
And Meier said something else too: Never put all your eggs in one basket.
For too long southeast Alberta has relied on gas and oil to pay the freight on our economy. Those industries have been good to us, but we need to start thinking about diversification; and for that you need innovation. And, most importantly, you need more business owners who are innovators.
We have seen abundant evidence of how profitable it is when an individual or a company is in on the ground floor of a good idea. There are risks involved, of course, but in an economy as stagnant as ours just staying in business is already a risk.