‘We’re ready for them:’ Texans see opportunity in western Canadian malaise

Realtor Robert Graham is delivering tens of thousands of brochures to British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan

Cars travel along a highway with the skyline of downtown Houston in the background on May 20, 2010. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Houston Chronicle, Michael Paulsen)

The brochure’s cover has the Texas flag as a backdrop and shows an arrow pointing from Alberta to the Lone Star State.

“Arrowstar Realty invites you to relocate to Texas,” reads the mailer sent to businesses across Western Canada recently. “Join the 100s of companies that have already made the move!”

Inside is a letter — beginning “Dear Canadian Neighbour” — boasting of Montgomery County’s “BOOMING” economy, tax incentives and ranch-style properties. It offers to link prospective clients with banks, accountants and lawyers to ease their move.

Realtor Robert Graham says 15,000 brochures have been delivered in British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan so far. Another 50,000 are coming.

He says Arrowstar has helped about 100 western Canadian companies move north of Houston in the last decade, and 40 of them were in the last year and a half.

The majority of newcomers have been Canadian oil and gas drillers, a sector that has hit a rough patch in recent years.

“I definitely want Canada to pick back up. I would love for that more than anything,” says Graham.

But for now, he says, a lot of Canadian businesses need help to keep going.

“We’ve got doors open and we’re ready for them.”

READ MORE: Trudeau promises added incentives for first-time home buyers in Greater Victoria

Krisjan Jones, operations manager at livestock feed supplement maker Canadian Bio-Systems, says Lubbock’s economic development agency recently made an enticing pitch to move his business to the west Texas city.

It was offering land at no cost with utilities and rail access.

“So essentially you get a blank canvas for free,” says Jones, who adds he’s waiting on the outcome of the Oct. 21 federal election before pulling the trigger. He cites the federal carbon tax as a major issue for him.

Clogged railways that make it difficult to get international shipments out on time are another big knock against Canada, he says.

John Osborne with the Lubbock Economic Development Alliance says pitches are centred more on the long-term business case than politics or potential perks. When benefits are discussed, it’s more of a problem-solving exercise.

“We look at it as ‘What’s stopping you from saying yes to coming to Lubbock right now?’”

That could mean free land, sewer and water hookups or road paving.

Osborne says his group has been doing Canadian outreach for about a decade, but it’s gone from sporadic to regular in recent years. Most trips are to Calgary and Toronto and have been with companies in oil and gas, manufacturing and agriculture.

Precision Drilling CEO Kevin Neveu moved to Houston from Calgary three years ago with the rest of the company’s management team. It has about 250 employees in each city now.

Neveu says 2017 was the first year Canada made up less than half of Precision’s activity and this year it’s at 30 per cent.

Alberta’s oil curtailments, trouble building new pipelines and cooling investor sentiment have depressed the Canadian industry, he says.

“It’s those three factors that are really starving our customers for capital, which means they’re not reinvesting in drilling, which means that our business here is just really slow — brutally slow.”

READ MORE: Developer offers free Tesla 3 with purchase of South Surrey townhome

Mark Scholz, head of the Canadian Association of Oilwell Drilling Contractors, says every member he’s spoken to has at least seriously considered moving people or equipment out of Canada. The association represents more than 100 companies that drill or service oil and gas wells.

He says moves from Alberta’s new United Conservative government to lessen the regulatory and tax burden are helping with competitiveness, but the southbound exodus is a wake-up call.

“The Americans are playing a very strategic game and quite frankly I think they’re winning at that.”

Lauren Krugel, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Hundreds of wax figures find new life in Saanich man’s home

Former director of Victoria’s Royal London Wax Museum still hopes to revive wax figure tourism

Oak Bay wins Vancouver Island basketball championship

Third-place NDSS will get to challenge second place Claremont for a berth in provincials

Peninsula Eagles will host Midget T2 provincial championships

Provincial championships will take place at Panorama Recreation March 15 to 19

UPDATED: Hit and run results in damaged fire hydrant, flooding on Richmond Road

Registered owner issued $360 ticket, responsible for repair costs

Saanich’s senior race car driver not slowing down

Bill Okell kicks off 2020 season at Buttonwillow Raceway Park in California on Feb. 21

HIGHLIGHTS: Day one and two at the 2020 BC Winter Games

Athletes had sunny – but cold – weather to work with in Fort St. John

Tyler Toffoli scores twice, Canucks crush Bruins 9-3

Stecher, Miller each add three points for Vancouver

Zamboni driver, 42, earns NHL win over Maple Leafs

Emergency goalie called into action for Carolina Hurricanes

Governor general says multiple solutions needed for ‘complicated’ overdose issue

Julie Payette met at a fire hall with firefighters and police officers as well as politicians and health experts

Landlord ordered to pay $11K after harassing B.C. mom to move days after giving birth

Germaine Valdez was pressured to move just a few days after giving birth by C-section to her child

Heart attacks strike B.C. husband and wife just over one year apart

Courtenay couple share personal stories to bring awareness to heart month

‘Nothing surprises us anymore:’ U.S. border officials find brain in package

U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents found the brain packed in a glass mason jar in a Canada Post shipment

B.C., Ottawa sign sweeping 30-year deal for northern caribou habitat

West Moberly, Saulteau co-manage new protection on two million acres

Loans or gifts? Judge rules woman must pay Victoria man back $7K

B.C. judge rules that woman must pay back more than $7,000 in advanced funds to man

Most Read