The Pulse: March 25, 2022

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  • 1°C: Increasing cloudiness early in the morning. Fog patches in outlying areas early in the morning. Wind becoming east 20 km/h gusting to 40 in the afternoon. High plus 1. Wind chill minus 9 in the morning. UV index 2 or low. (forecast)
  • 5-2: The Oilers (36-24-5) defeated the Sharks (28-28-8) at Rogers Place. (details)

Panellists perch on stools on stage while a moderator at a podium speaks

Entrepreneur questions need for innovation narrative

By Karen Unland

Efforts to tell a unified narrative about innovation in Edmonton may be a distraction, says an entrepreneur whose company has seen significant success at home and abroad.

It's the ideas and talent emerging from Edmonton rather than the city's reputation that makes the difference on the world stage, suggested Myrna Bittner, CEO and co-founder of RUNWITHIT Synthetics, during a panel on telling the city's innovation story at the Rainforest Summit on March 24.

"You may not know where Edmonton is … but it doesn't matter because we have kick-ass, world-winning tech," Bittner said.

RUNWITHIT Synthetics, which uses AI to help create visualizations of complex concepts such as economics, mobility, and energy use, has received lots of local accolades. It was named the Most Edmonton Startup of the Year, was recognized as an emerging digital leader at Digital Alberta's Ember Awards, and won a competition for rent-free office space downtown.

But it's on the international stage where RUNWITHIT Synthetics has really shone, competing to help Bogotá deal with climate change at the Climate Smart Cities Challenge, winning gold at MobileHeroes in Taiwan, and pitching at the Industry Growth Forum in Colorado in April, among other accomplishments.

"The important narrative for the entrepreneurs that this whole system rests on is our success," Bittner said at the event, organized by Rainforest Alberta - YEG. "I think that is really important when we look at community. It's not this common narrative where we need to refer to researchers or Nobel laureates."

Bittner's comments were in response to fellow panellist Christopher Micetich of Brass Dome Ventures. He said that while Edmonton is friendly to startups, it hasn't yet built a narrative that fosters a level of collaboration seen in other cities.

"If you go to places like Silicon Valley, San Francisco, (they're) highly competitive, but they all work together, they all share a common narrative … We haven't learned to do that in Edmonton," he said.

"I think we're starting to learn the importance of working together, but we still don't work together well enough here."

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By Kevin Holowack

  • Since March 7, washrooms at 15 of 18 transit and LRT stations have been closed. A city spokesperson told CTV News the closures are supposed to reduce drug poisoning risks and that the Enhanced Transit Safety Plan that council approved in February recommended temporarily closing "select washrooms" and redirecting people to nearby facilities. Last year 1,758 people died from drug poisoning in Alberta. The city has no timetable for the washrooms to re-open.
  • According to the Edmonton Police Service, there were 158 recorded shootings in 2020, 150 in 2021, and 29 in 2022 so far. From 2020-2021, EPS recorded 72% of shootings as "targeted" and 47% as having "gang involvement." Staff Sgt. Eric Stewart told reporters "the brazenness of these shootings is definitely, I would say, escalating."
  • Hundreds of Ukrainians are arriving in Edmonton on Monday on a "deadhead" flight that was already coming to the city to pickup cargo. The flight is funded by donations collected by the Canadian Polish Historical Society. The people chosen to arrive have visas, passports, and host families rather than refugee status.
  • Stephen Wong, a civil and environmental engineering professor at the University of Alberta, has received a $50,000 grant from the City of Edmonton and the Alberta Ecotrust Foundation to research how the city can better respond to natural disasters. "The research is intended to provide decision-making support for the City of Edmonton and how they construct both evacuation plans and emergency response plans," Wong told CBC.
  • The owners of City Liquidations and Koultures Afro-Continental Restaurant, two businesses near 118 Avenue and 88 Street, spoke to Global News about how construction in the area is hurting business. Shady Darwish and Tekle Wold said years of ongoing road construction has reduced business visibility, discouraged food delivery drivers, and forced some businesses to close. City council will discuss the possibility of providing financial aid to businesses impacted by major construction projects at its next meeting on April 4.
  • The city is reminding Edmontonians that a new waste collection schedule begins March 29, after which food scrap carts will be collected once a week, garbage will still be collected every two weeks, and recycling will be collected every week. This schedule will run until Nov. 1.
  • Postmedia has published Part 2 of Toxi-City, a three-part series on the toxic drugs crisis in Edmonton. In this instalment, reporter Anna Junker follows volunteers and EMS responders assisting people with addictions.
  • The city announced that construction has begun on the Coronation Park Sports and Recreation Centre, which is scheduled to be finished by spring 2026. The facility will include a fitness centre, running track, gymnasium, and indoor play space, and will connect to the existing Peter Hemingway Fitness and Leisure Centre.
Edmonton Global CEO Malcolm Bruce

Relaunched Port Alberta expands concept from airport to region

By Debbi Serafinchon and Karen Unland

Edmonton is nowhere near an ocean, but the region has a port of sorts, and it's now bigger and more diversified than ever. This week saw the relaunch of Port Alberta, a concept that describes the convergence of air, rail, pipelines, and roadways governed by regulations that facilitate the import and export of goods.

The inland port is a kind of "one-stop shop" for companies, said Malcolm Bruce of Edmonton Global, which announced the relaunch alongside the Edmonton International Airport and Prairies Economic Development Canada. Port Alberta has been seen as an airport program, but the concept extends to the entire Edmonton metropolitan region, encompassing its rail and road connections, Bruce told Postmedia at a relaunch event at the Stihl chainsaw factory in Acheson.

"Shipping internationally doesn't make sense until you have the capabilities to do it at scale," EMMYDEVEAUX founder Emily Salsbury told Global News. "We wouldn't have had the capabilities to do it at scale without being where we are and working with the Port Alberta team."

Port Alberta is one of Edmonton's air cargo advantages, said commercial real estate broker Bronwyn Scrivens. "Municipalities now recognize the importance of strong air cargo capacities as a critical component of economic development for a region," she wrote in a Real Estate News Exchange piece. "Fortunately for Edmonton, EIA was ahead of the game on this trend and is poised to become an extremely efficient player in the intermodal supply chain needs of today's global business leaders."

Photo: Edmonton Global CEO Malcolm Bruce speaks at the Port Alberta relaunch event on March 23. (YouTube)

A portrait of Martin Kerr

Weekend agenda: March 25-27, 2022

By Karen Unland

This weekend features festivals of new plays, movement, and music, as well as a cash mob and a movie screening.

Photo: Martin Kerr is stepping in for Kat Danser at St. Basil's Cultural Centre on Friday (New Moon Folk Club). This item has been updated to reflect the change.