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Lethbridge Herald Newspaper Archives

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Lethbridge Herald (Newspaper) - February 21, 1973, Lethbridge, Alberta SOCIAL REASONS SAYS V OF L PROF Why Calgary is Canada's oil capital If the residents of Calgary and Edmonton had been of different temperaments, the economic development of Alberta might have taken a far different direction. Dr. G. H. Zieber, acting chairman of the University of Lethbridge geography department, says social and personal - rather than economic - factors led to Calgary's growth as the booming administrative "oil capital" of the province and left Edmonton to develop as an important, but less flamboyant, contributor to the operational end of the, industry. By 'operational,' he means the 'blue collar' aspect of the oil industry - the refining, transportation and supply of equipment. In 1971, Dr. Zieber completed a two-year study - part of his doctoral thesis - of the Alberta oil industry. His research was partially financed by a Central Mortgage ami Housing Corporation urban development grant. The geographer set out to discover why Alberta's two largest cities had developed as they had, with respect to the oil industry. One of his main concerns was the "inter- and intra-city location patterns" of oil offices. ANALYSIS His analysis of 8,754 operation offices of oil companies included interviews with top executives of 112 of the firms. The results provide fascinating insight into the nature of the residents of Calgary and Edmonton. A portion of the study is to be published in the 1973 issue of the Albertan Geographer. To obtain an accurate survey of the industry, Dr. Zieber studied 12 different types of oil firms for _a 20-year period of their growth, focussing on five data years: 1950. 1955, I960, 1965 and 1970. The 12 categories were generally defined as either administrative or operational in nature. In 1950 Calgary had 310 administrative and 238 operations oil offices whereas Echnonton had 100 ad 177 respectively. By 1970, Calgary boasted 945 administrative and 933 operations oil offices while Edmonton contained only 158 administrative and 699 operations-office.. "Because of t!*; 1947 Leduc oil strike the other major oil discoveries - all of which occurred in the Edmonton region or to the north - and because the provincial government offices had headquarters in Edmonton, the administrative centre of the oil industry should be located there," comments Dr. Zieber. "However, Calgary's early start in the oil industry, with the Turner Valley boom in. 1914, meant the core in the industry began in Calgary. Some of the major firms, such as Shell and Imperial, indicated they once gave consideration to moving their main offices to Edmonton after 1947, but decided against it." Dr. Zieber's study reveals that the Edmonton community was not very receptive to the oil companies. "Edmonton," explains the geographer, "was - and to a certain extent, still is - a con-servaitive city with strong agrarian roots. Many of the residents came from a Continental European background where the emiphasis was on hard work and personal savings rather than investment and speculation." "Oil firms tried to locate their offices' in Edmonton, but the business community reacted very slowly and made little effort to accommodate them - minimum office space was available, and little or no development for new office complexes was begun." "However, other cultural forces also were involved with the Edmontonians initial disaffection with the oil industry," adds Dr. Zieber. During t h e Second World War, Edmonton had undergone a large influx of Americans, in connection with the building of the Alas-: kan Highway. "There was a good deal of resentment among Edmontonians, because of the housing and job problems arising. When the oilmen - again, predominantly American - showed signs of moving to the city, people recalled the unpleasant experiences of the "40's" and reacted negatively." VERY DIFFERENT Calgary, on the other hand, provided a far different atmosphere for American oilmen. "Calgary's population," says Dr. Zieber, "consisted of a strong Anglo-Saxon element anti had definite American roots. Many Americans settled in Calgary in the early pioneering and cattle era," explains Dr. Zieber. "When the oilmen came, they already had contacts and friends among the people. That Calgary was 200 miles closer to the U.S. border was also a positive factor." In short, Calgary provided a more nurturing cultural climate for the American oilmen. "CaSgarians had gambled in tha cattle industry, and were willing to invest and take risks. There was a "whoop-up" type of atmosphere in Calgary which was similar to what they had known in Texas. The petroleum clubs had first started there and provided a place where the oilmen could make contacts." Dr. Zieber says his research revealed that it is often only one or two key people in an oil company who decide where the firm's administrative centre will be located. What is even more suprising, in such a technical and multi - million dollar industry, is that many such decisions are based on personal factors and attitudes, rather than feasibility studies or statistical evidence. And, in most cases, Calgary was the city chosen for the executive operation of the oil firm. Once Edmonton rejected initial advances by the oil companies the die was cast. "When they could have welcomed the oil people they didn't," said Dr. Zieber, "and the chance never came again. Once a few of the administrative offices had built their skyscrapers and settled down in Calgary, the majority of other companies followed suit. Everyone wanted to be in close contact with his competitor." . But, Dr. Zieber is quick to point out, Edmonton is hardly suffering exclusion from the oil brotherhood. The city's involvement in the operational end of the industry is forging ahead at an amazing rate. Edmonton is the location of 93 per cent of v the total refining capacity of Alberta and 58 per cent of the capacity for Western Canada. All of the refineries in Calgary are being phased out. Edmonton is an outstanding refining and petrochemical centre. Within a 100 mile radius of the city are located 7,000 producing oil wells - 70 per cent of Alberta's petroleum production. By 1974, Imperial Oil's new 140,000 barrel-per-day refinery will be heart of a supply network stretching from the Great Lakes to the Rockies. /""^ SIMPSONS bears Save 599 Extra duty Polypropylene Battery Polypropylene walls are thinner - yet stronger than rubber. Premium Extra Duty has more room for more acid - more plates - this means more power. Will your battery last the winter? See us, nowl Rog. $29.98 to $31.98 Supramatic Shock Absorbers Guaranteed for 24,000 miles Restore new car riding com fort. Save now! 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