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, written by Jeremy. Read the commentary.

Alberta, Drayton Valley, bioindustrial, industrial bioproducts, clean tech, clean technology

Seen from the sky, Drayton Valley is a labyrinth. Any path to the centre contemplative and circuitous.

Fiftieth Street and 50th Avenue quarter the town. Each quarter respect the cordons, except the semi-industrialists. Like a wildfire, they leapt 50th Avenue, moving down to consume parts of the south-east.

Heavy-industry barricades the south. A bulwark against newfangled economies, these are lumber-mills and power-plants. The town hums. The air is scented by sawn trees.

Drayton Valley is west of the Rocky Mountains–forests cover the 200 kilometres to the peaks. Go east, across the North Saskatchewan River, to find Canada’s breadbasket. North is crude oil, natural gas, and Alberta’s oil-sands.

Agriculture, forestry and energy are the economic engines in Alberta and Drayton Valley is a lot like other towns in the province–dependent on capricious commodity prices. It followed their path up, through the 50’s oil-boom and down again into the 2000’s.

Today it’s late in 2009 and for Drayton Valley it’s been a year of convergence.

Viewed from one direction, things look sketchy. Drayton Valley’s energy companies crumble under falling prices. Pinched by Pine Beetle and close to worthless lumber, timber companies are tired. Agriculture just crawled through another season of drought. It’s been a blunderbuss of bad.

But, during this same time, the world suddenly turned. Green is great. Clean technology gets more VC investment than any other sector in North America. And feeding into every, single, clean opportunity is at least one of four things: agriculture, forestry, energy or water. Bad became good.

Bad allowed Drayton Valley to find a door, out of pure primary production. It has enough revenue to make the transition–if it moves deliberately. It has the right skill-sets available–if it moves quickly. It has a tailored set of opportunities–if it moves proactively.

Drayton Valley is a town on the edge of a wicked bad problem–the threshold almost palpable. But, for now, it lives in a labyrinth of wicked good.

(Disclosure: Sift builds with Drayton Valley)


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