My four year old son Sam, has an unusual fascination with
aircraft and counts them as they are flying by. I know that Sam would’ve loved
to join me on a visit to a helicopter maintenance company at Villeneuve Airport
but he would’ve been quite interruptive with requests for a ride, so Sam had to
wait for an appropriate opportunity to see a helicopter up-close.
Avialta Helicopter Maintenance introduced me to a whole new industry
that I didn’t know much about. When I think of helicopters, the obvious
activities come to mind - site seeing, heli-skiing, firefighting and search and
rescue operations. But I wasn’t aware of some of the specialized uses for them.
Helicopter are involved in new and expansion projects within several business
industries across Western Canada such as mining exploration, logging, equipment
moves, aerial construction and power line construction. These are lucrative
markets that companies like Avialta have targeted since they came into
existence 26 years ago.
Helicopter Maintenance is a Transport Canada approved helicopter repair and
overhaul maintenance shop, performing
routine and major maintenance and aircraft customizations including, interior,
paint, avionics, optional equipment installations and maintenance level
company also leases a fleet of over 30 aircraft to various industries across
Canada for specialized applications such as those I previously mentioned.
industry around Avialta
The helicopter industry has historically been built on
providing access to remote areas and is sustained by clients that work in the
field. In Alberta, helicopters plays an essential role in the natural resource
based economy and so the slowdown in exploration and delays on major capital
projects caused by low energy prices has increased competition within the
helicopter industry to a significant level. While lower profit margins are
squeezing some operators out of the business, Avialta has developed well-honed
survival skills to navigate their businesses through seasonal and cyclical
upsets. Even though some
aircraft owners and airlines perform maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) services
in-house, many more prefer outsourcing them because they have chosen to focus
their attention on core business operations, as opposed to MRO. This area of
opportunity has expanded over the years and contributed to Avialta’s success.
industry around Avialta
The helicopter industry has historically been
built on providing access to remote areas and is sustained by clients that work
in the field. In Alberta, helicopters plays an essential role in the natural
resource based economy and so the slowdown in exploration and delays on major
capital projects caused by low energy prices has increased competition within
the helicopter industry to a significant level. While lower profit margins are
squeezing some operators out of the business, Avialta has developed well-honed
survival skills to navigate their businesses through seasonal and cyclical
though some aircraft owners and airlines perform maintenance, repair and
overhaul (MRO) services in-house, many more prefer outsourcing them because they
have chosen to focus their attention on core business operations, as opposed to
MRO. This area of opportunity has expanded over the years and contributed to
Avialta Helicopter Maintenance was purchased by Rod Wood in 1985 when it was a small two-person operation located at the tiny St. Albert airfield just north of Edmonton at ProNorth Industrial Park. While he may not have ever anticipated challenging the giants of aviation maintenance, Rod had a desire to grow his small firm quickly but steadily.
Today, the company consists of 18 employees that range from aircraft maintenance engineers, office staff and support workers at their maintenance facility within Villeneuve Airport. This facility is 19,000 sq. ft. comprising a hangar space, paint shop, part sales area, and component shop with an adjoining office structure.
Although current economic conditions continue to challenge the
survival skills of many helicopter companies, Avialta is well-diversified and
specialized enough to weather the slowdown across the energy industry. With the
province kicking off its forest fire
season earlier than it traditionally has, Avialta could have a busy helicopter leasing
season ahead. I’d like to thank Paul Horvartis and Avialta for giving me a tour
of their facility – Avialta is definitely an important contributor to the
economy of Sturgeon County and they certainly make us all #SturgeonProud!
Contact Avialta Helicopter Maintenance at 780.460.1800
or check out their website at www.avialta.com
I wouldn’t have guessed that the alfalfa plant belongs to the pea family. As a nitrogen fixing plant (a legume), it has the highest nutrient value of any forage crop. Alfalfa is primarily used as feed for high-producing dairy cows, because of its high protein content and highly digestible fiber. It is also fed to beef cattle, horses, sheep, and goats. Sturgeon County has an estimated 60 percent of 14,000 acres harvested by a Legal company called Alfa Tec, the largest alfalfa feed manufacturer in western Canada.
Alfa Tec is a harvesting and processing plant that produces alfalfa pellets and hay cubes for animal feed. 50 - 60 percent of their product is shipped through British Columbia to the Pacific Rim countries of Japan, Korea and Taiwan while the rest is sold within North America (Texas, Florida, and Atlanta). Ontario and Quebec also have market distribution centres in Eastern Canada.
Guy Blanchette, Administration Manager at the facility, gave me a tour of the facility to see a production run in progress. The process begins at the farm where the alfalfa is cut and baled. The harvest timetable is a fundamental part of pre-production process to obtain the most suitable plant for manufacture of various commercial qualities.
Wilting is the second stage, which consists of natural drying to lower the average humidity level of the alfalfa before dehydration, without altering its nutritional qualities. The product is then delivered to the plant as green chop and artificially dehydrated in a rotary drum dryer. With hot air (between 250° and 600°C in dryer entrance), the moisture is reduced to about 10 -15 percent and then the green chop is crushed. The flour obtained is put into granulation presses where they are compressed through columned holes on a die and discharged as pellets of different sizes. The pellets go through a cooler and are then bagged and stored for shipment.
The markets for processed alfalfa have predominantly been in areas where shortage of land to grow forage crops has led to large quantities of forage imports. Spot markets for alfalfa continue to emerge from time to time; largely to fulfil a specific need (such as weather related feed shortages). Alfa Tec markets about 60,000 – 80,000 tons of products per year. Production has increased by 23 percent within the past five years and business continues to grow steadily for this Sturgeon company.
Alfa Tec is located in Legal, Alberta
In recent years, there’s been a resurgence of consumer interest in local food – it’s fair to say that today, an increasing number of consumers think that local is the way to go whenever possible. If you ask people why they shop local, many reply that it’s fresher, has a smaller environmental footprint, supports the economy and creates jobs all along the food chain that links farm to fork.
I cannot deny the influence of the growing local food movement on my grocery shopping habits today – my eggs, meat, honey and some vegetables are all purchased from local producers in Sturgeon County. The difference in quality of produce from a local farm relative to a big chain store can be quite stark in some cases. Apart from taste, I enjoy the personal connection to the farms where crops and animals are produced. I certainly felt that way when I visited Cardiff Meat and Sausage early this October.
Located near Morinville, Cardiff Meat and Sausage is a licensed and inspected butcher shop owned and operated by Tony and Brenda Rustemeier; third generation livestock producers that specialize in all aspects of the beef industry from cow-calf and seed stock production to feedlot finishing and custom processing. Twenty-six years ago, the butcher shop began doing custom cutting and wrapping for local farmers and hunters and in recent years they have expanded their mandate to provide affordable, naturally raised, high quality beef direct from their farm to local consumers.
Tony and Brenda note that they’ve seen a rise in demand from people looking for an alternative to mass-produced meat. The couple forms a growing number of livestock farmers across Canada who are breaking from the status quo and raising fewer animals, typically letting them graze on pasture. They tend to slaughter their animals in smaller abattoirs, and then sell the meat through a growing network of independent butchers or directly to consumers.
Butchers have always been an important resource to any civilization from the humblest of villages to the most urban of cities. The art of the butcher has steadily evolved to become one of the world’s oldest and most respected professions. The local butcher was a major neighborhood fixture by the dawn of the 20th century. Today, most of them employ their trade at food processing companies and large supermarkets.
However, there remains a small pocket of neighborhood artisans that help us relive that nostalgia of simple times and a sense of connectedness with the food we eat. I admired them both as they worked in their little shop. Tony is a true artisan - with careful hands and a calm demeanor while Brenda pays keen attention to quality and customer service. With high standards for themselves as far as meat products go, the couple has grown a successful business with confidence in their craft developed over years of dedication.
Working in a custom shop where meat is often cut to customers’ orders means the workload varies from day to day and week to week. There are always new challenges, and frustrations, and yet as they cut different parts of different animals, the couple takes time to do it right.
The animals are fed naturally
Though I didn’t visit the Rustemeier farm in the summer, I managed to get a picture of their animals grazing on the rolling grasslands of the County.
Their calves are born on pasture in April and May and then in the fall, they are weaned and fed through the winter on hay and oats green feed. When they mature to yearlings, they are moved back to pasture with a supplementary self-feed ration of grain. This results in a beef product that is rose colored, well marbled and intensely flavorful.
The Rustemeiers additionally use selective breeding to attain specific traits in their beef cattle. An example of a desired trait could be leaner meat or resistance to illness. To achieve the standard of “naturally raised beef”, the animals are raised without the consumption of growth hormones or antibiotics. That’s as close as one can get to the stringent standards of organic meat.
Great meat cuts for a variety of cooking
The chart above shows the types of cuts you can get from a steer and the best cooking method type for each cut.
I would highly recommend Cardiff Meat and Sausage for their locally produced beef – the quality of their product is simply outstanding!
If you’re interested in dropping off game animals (elk, deer etc.) as well, call the Rustemeiers at 780-973-5998 or 780-908-5998. The butcher shop is located on 24512 Township Rd 554 (Cardiff Road) Sturgeon County.
Cardiff Meat and Sausage makes us #SturgeonProud
There is no doubt that the plunging oil prices have caused
concerns among industries that are linked to the energy sector. Is it all doom
and gloom as some would lead us to believe? My answer is an emphatic no. My
perception from visiting firms linked to the energy sector indicates mixed
impacts. Indeed, some companies have scaled back and put new plans for capital
projects on hold while others are forging ahead and capitalizing on lower
construction costs resulting from a more competitive labour market. Obviously, the
metal fabrication sector will continue to thrive because existing industrial
facilities will need to maintain and replace old machinery and parts.
I toured McSween Custom Fabricating's facility in Sturgeon
Industrial Park a week ago and their mood spells optimism even in the midst of
changes within the energy sector. McSween
Custom Fabricating is an industrial fabrication and construction company that
has been serving industrial plants in Alberta since 1980. The company
was started as a family business by two brothers that were involved in the
trades. It evolved through the years, expanding its client base after it was
purchased by its current owner, Nelson Martin. McSween’s expertise covers a broad range of industries, which include
petrochemical, fertilizer, cement, mining, pharmaceutical and power generation. The company
has two shops; a main shop with 28,000 square feet which is their custom
fabrication shop with 15 employees. This shop is involved in fabricating
vessels and custom forming, shearing and rolling. The second shop of 10
employees is a pipe products shop which is 12,000 square feet fabricates
process pressure piping of any alloy.
Fabricating also employs 18 people that are capable of providing project management
services, engineering and design. It also has a field
maintenance division consisting of 70 people of various trades, pipe fitters, pressure
welders, millwrights, boilermakers and iron workers that provide maintenance
support to the industrial sector.
has built a great reputation on high quality and flexibility when it comes to
difficult projects. Inside one of the facilities, there were large pipes and
vessels that were being worked on. I wondered how these giant, heavy pieces
ever leave the shop. It turns out that the shops are equipped with multi five
ton overhead cranes and the large overhead doors are designed for the finished pieces
to exit the shop.
also learned a couple of interesting facts about welding. When two pieces of
metal are welded; scorching temperatures of around 5,500 degrees Celsius (9,900
degrees Fahrenheit are used). The sparks that result can be as hot as 1,300
degrees Celsius (2,500 degrees Fahrenheit) so needless to say, I was sure to
stand clear! The finished pipes and vessels also undergo testing for strength
and leaks. The test involves filling the vessel or pipe system with a liquid,
usually water, which may be dyed to spot leaks more easily. Vessels are
pressurized to a specified test pressure at which point, instruments measure
pressure loss. The strength of a vessel is usually tested by measuring the
deformities of the container. These tests are conducted in front of clients to
ensure that their project is compliant with all stated specifications and
enjoyed my visit with McSween Custom Fabricating and I have new admiration for
engineers that design and build stable and durable structures that keep Alberta’s economy
humming. You can also learn more on how engineered technologies sustain our
economy by visiting the Western Manufacturing
Technology Show. This event will be hosted in Edmonton from June 15-17, 2015. The show is geared towards the needs of manufacturers in
Alberta and throughout Western Canada in industries ranging from oil and gas,
industrial and commercial machinery, construction, mining, agriculture, wind
energy and aerospace.
The show will provide access to
state-of-the-art manufacturing equipment, educational sessions and networking
opportunities. It is
designed to be a one-stop, all-encompassing venue for the latest technologies
and trends in machine tools, tooling and accessories, metal fabrication, design,
automation and assembly, advanced manufacturing, plant maintenance and process
control, so if you’re interested, visit the Edmonton EXPO Centre at the
Northlands, Halls F, G & H, 7515-118 Avenue, Edmonton. Get more information from the event website at: www.wmts.ca.
McSween Custom Fabricating, Welding, Erecting Ltd may is located
Sturgeon Industrial Park
Sturgeon County, AB T8L 5C1
Phone: 780 998
I remember when I got my first job as an Economic Development Officer in a small town in Saskatchewan a few years back, I managed to pack all my belongings into little Toyota Echo as a minimalist bachelor and made it all the way to Regina.
Fast forward to 2014, after being married with two children, we needed two trips with a 14-foot U-Haul cargo truck to get all our belongings to the home we presently live in – a stark contrast to my moving days while I was a bachelor. Feeling the burden of being saddled with “stuff”, my wife and I switched to purge mode. We got rid of unneeded items on Kijiji, at Goodwill and the Edmonton Recycling Depot. It really made a difference - uncluttering our home, freeing up more space and reducing the amount of cleaning. Purging can indeed simplify ones’ lifestyle but sometimes there are legitimate reasons to invest in storage.
The self storage industry in one of the fastest growing industries in North America. It’s no surprise because we have a lot of stuff, and we like to keep it. Self-storage can be a wise financial and personal move when:
Place For Your Stuff is a locally owned self storage facility in Pro North Industrial Park I visited early this year. The facility is located 5 minutes north of St. Albert, 10 minutes south of Morinville, or 15 minutes west of the Garrison Military Base.
Place For Your Stuff has 854 storage units in 5, 10 or 20 feet sizes with interior LED lighting at lower rates compared to similar units in Morinville, St. Albert and Edmonton – check out their website for current deals. One unique aspect of this facility is the convenience it provides customers – online registration and payments, and 24/7 gates access to your personal belongings. Take a video tour of the facility below.
Jakub, the onsite manager gave me a brief tour and I must say I was very impressed – the site was clear of snow, clean and visibly well maintained. It was also secured with motion sensors, cameras and a computer controlled gate access for additional security. Place for your stuff provides 5, and 10-foot storage units for your contents.
You’ll also be glad to know that they are a member of the St. Albert and District Chamber of Commerce in 2017. If you have an M2M discount card, you could get 10 percent off your storage fee! For more information on storage availability, contact Yakub at (587) 764-0119.
Place for your stuff makes us #SturgeonProud
The appeal of a log home is a combination of common sense and nostalgia, which lets one live comfortably, even luxuriously in a work of art, while keeping a traditional craft alive.
The history of log homes
Log homes are often associated with pioneer settlement, but did you know that West Coast Indians used log frames for their large plank houses long before the arrival of European settlers? Immigrants to the prairie west patterned their first log houses after customary forms of their homelands (e.g., Ukraine). In the subarctic forests, log houses provided comfortable shelter for trappers and woodsmen. Their attractive appearance and thermal efficiency still make them popular not only with summer cottagers across Canada, but among many people with a renewed interest in traditional housing.
The log home builder in Sturgeon County
M&H Wood Specialties has been in the log home building and renovation business in the Edmonton area for over 34 years. They specialize in exterior finishing, structural and aesthetic restoration and new builds. I went on a tour of the company’s building construction site with owner, Paul Murray, who explained the various aspects of the operation and the growing desire for natural homes.
I learned that beyond the rustic ambiance and the strong connection to nature, there are other several advantages for owning a log home.
1. They are long lasting – long homes still in use today date back hundreds of years.
2. Tree are a renewable resource – logs are often sourced from forests that are certifies as sustainable and some builders such as M & H can construct home to green building standards
3. Log homes naturally fit the landscape they are built within.
4. Thick logs make the walls warm to touch. If the home is sealed properly, you could have a home is 20 to 30 percent more energy efficient than a conventional home.
5. Your home can be framed onsite faster than a conventional build, which will reduce the likelihood of weather related damages.
6. Rustic does not mean no technology – log home builders are able add communication technologies and other automated features.
7. If you’re concerned about mold or insect infestation, log homes offer a clear advantage of giving you the ability to notice the issue faster than a conventional home with sealed wall cavities that offer hiding areas.
8. Furthermore whole wood products are less likely to affect people with environmental sensitivities.
9. Logs and lumber used in homes sequester considerable carbon; there is less energy required to turn a log into a finished housing component as compared to drywall, vinyl etc.
10. The lifecycle of log homes that may be centuries are much greater than the typical 75 year lifecycle expectancy of most mainstream construction systems.
A few of many eclectic homes built by M & H – take a tour of their building exteriors
…and their building interiors
How log homes are built
I really appreciate the the work of log builders because – log homes are works of art that require immense patience and physical labor. Although M & H uses more intricate construction processes, log homes are typically constructed in ten steps. First, the logs are individually selected to ensure that they are free of dry rot, cracking, splitting and bug infestation. M&H uses hand peeled, air-dried, Eastern slope, slow growth Alberta White Spruce. The logs can be dried from one to two years.
A proper foundation may be constructed with traditional stone or concrete blocks. Creating a basement involves excavating and creating foundation walls, which is much more work. The foundation pictured above shows an example of what a simplified one may look like.
The logs are then put together using a technique known as scribe, fit, round-notch method. This features semi-circular notches cut in the bottom of the logs to fit over adjacent ones to ensure proper water drainage when it rains. Grooves are also cut down the entire length of the log to eliminate air drafts.
Alignment pegs are then installed at each corner of the structure and around every window and door opening to maintain the stability of the log home. When the logs reach the top of the planned window and door openings, the walls are braced and openings are cut out all at once.
The roof on the cabin shown is a combination of purlin and rafter construction. A purlin is a horizontal beam or bar used for structural support in a roof. Purlins are supported by rafters which are a series of sloped beams that extend from the peak of the roof all the way to the outside walls. Once purlins and rafters are installed, roofing boards are put in place and then either asphalt or cedar shingles are used to complete the roof. The doors and windows are then installed to complete the home.
There is a lot of planning that goes into log home construction to ensure safety and longevity and this is where M & H excels. Besides engineering your tastes and preferences to building code, M & H helps you maximize the energy conservation of your new home by placing it properly onsite. They take the extra step in examining the building envelope through modern energy testing.
One thing I admire about the company is their focus on sustainable forestry. M & H harvests timber from designated forestry areas in Alberta and British Columbia, which are then replanted with five saplings for every harvested tree. So essentially, the company not only provides a lasting product for their customer; they are also in the business of rebuilding our future one tree at a time.
If you’re interested to learn more, check out their office at Pro North Industrial Park - 27 Kuryluk Blvd or their website at: www.mhwood.com.
M&H Specialties makes us #SturgeonProud!
I’ve always had the dream of becoming a pilot since I was a child. That desire drove me to a point of exploring that opportunity at age of 25 when I was at a career crossroad. Private school for pilot training was going to be an expensive route, so I signed up to go through the Canadian Air Force to achieve my dream. I recall paying $50 for an intro flight lesson to determine if flying was for me – simply put, I felt in love. I flew with an instructor in a Cessna 172 for half an hour and my favorite part was learning how to climb and do 90 degree banking turns. Although I wasn’t successful in pursing flying as a career, I’ve never forgotten how exhilarating it felt to be in control of an aircraft.
My visit to the Namao Flying Club at the Villeneuve Airport brought back these pleasant memories. Founded in 1972, the flying club is located at Edmonton's primary training airport and just 20 minutes from the city. Namao Flying Club is a not-for-profit organization that offers attractive savings over other local flying schools and aircraft rentals.
I met Bob Smits, the Chief Flight Instructor of the Club who gave me a tour of their facility located in the east hangar of the Villeneuve Aviation Centre. The club offers a number of different license programs for novices ranging from recreational, private pilot and commercial to night and instructor ratings. Licensed pilots also enjoy access to their aircraft fleet that include:
A Mooney (smaller aircraft)
A Piper Twin Comanche
The flying club also has a Precision Flight Controls Simulator that simulates the Cessna and Piper aircrafts.
It has a spacious apron and hangar that offers ample maneuvering space, along with on-site fueling. Members participate in the positioning of aircraft around the facility, which gives them an added experience not available elsewhere.
Out of curiosity, I researched the training costs at the flying club for a recreational or private pilot license and I was pleasantly surprised. The estimated cost of a Recreational Pilot License Training program is $5,445 and you can start as young as 16 years of age! This program includes a minimum of 25 hours of flying and 40 hours of ground school. Although you are restricted to day flights and one passenger only, in a single engine, non-high-performance aeroplane, it’s quite an exciting perk that one could fly solo for five hours in this program!
If you want to go for private pilot license, you have even more ability to take those family trips, get to your business meeting in less time or set yourself up to for other flying career opportunities. You will need to be at least 17 years of age and you’ll enjoy a minimum of 45 hours of flying time with 40 hours of ground school for a total of $8,745. The training fees are based on Transport Canada's minimum requirements.
The ability to fly a plane opens up incredible new doors to travel and see the world as you never have before and I think Namao Flying Club has quality programs at affordable rates for flying enthusiasts.
I couldn’t think of a more ideal environment to learn to fly - reduced air traffic, minimum transit time to the practice area and a friendly community. If you have ever had an interest in flying, I highly recommend that you go out and spend the $60 to take an intro flight. You could even take your spouse or date on the extended one hour tour which allows you to fly over the Edmonton cityscape for only $175. It’ll be worth the time and money and you will not regret it!
Visit www.namaoflyingclub.com or call 780.419.6777 for more information.
Start in Sturgeon is the Economic Development initiative of Sturgeon County, Alberta. The county encompasses a large area of land with several towns and hamlets throughout.
Sturgeon County has become home to 40+ world class companies. Is yours next?
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