Alberta is typically portrayed by images of oil wells in wheat fields with a view of the Rocky Mountains in the background. These icons represent the wealth of Alberta’s natural resources, which have been the foundation of our provincial economy. And, while these sectors remain the dominant contributors to provincial GDP, the manufacturing sector is slowly and continually growing.

What is the manufacturing sector and how does it impact Alberta’s economy?

The manufacturing sector transforms, or adds value, to our natural resources to create products we use on a regular basis. Raw products, such as wheat or oil, become consumer-ready products, such as bread or motor fuels.

If you are a consumer, your daily activities involve the manufacturing sector — petroleum refining, food and beverage processing, petrochemicals, wood products, machinery and construction materials.  Combined, these sectors generated $74 billion in shipments in 2012 and represent a significant part of Alberta’s economy.

The manufacturing sector strengthens Alberta’s economy in a number of ways, including the normal economic measures of GDP and employment. Additionally, sometimes overlooked are the substantial benefits from natural resource processing, creating markets for our resource sector right here in Alberta and expanding our traditional export markets that we have relied upon in the past. Manufacturing also helps diversify the economy to reduce the impact of boom and bust cycles associated with commodity prices.

The future potential and impact of Alberta’s manufacturing sector is immense. A recently completed study by the University of Calgary conservatively estimates that expanding the petrochemical manufacturing industry in Alberta would create over $650 million a year in provincial corporate income taxes.

Growth opportunities include refining oil sands bitumen into high efficiency diesel, and propane into plastics. Processing our energy resources in Alberta allows us to further our leadership in environmental stewardship and helps our province realize the maximum value of these resources.

It is likely that Alberta will always be known as a province blessed with natural resources. More and more, however, our manufacturing sector is playing a prominent role to bring our resources to your doorstep.