Canadian Consulting Engineer

Consulting engineers in Alberta still buoyant in hard times

April 13, 2009
By Canadian Consulting Engineer

Despite reports in the media about Alberta being hard hit by the recession, consulting engineering firms are holdin...

Despite reports in the media about Alberta being hard hit by the recession, consulting engineering firms are holding their own. The provincial government just budgeted its first deficit in 16 years, there are reportedly growing numbers of people on welfare, and newspapers tell of individuals tramping the streets searching in vain for jobs just flipping burgers. Other reports suggest there is going to be a glut of empty office space and construction of at least one new tower in Calgary was temporarily suspended.

However, according to Wendy Cooper, executive director of Consulting Engineers of Alberta, “The state of the consulting engineering industry is good so far.” She says that the association’s member firms are working through a backlog of work orders that might last for at least another 6 to 10 months. The public infrastructure sector remains strong. “We have had commitments from the large public sector clients – Alberta Transportation and Infrastructure, and the cities of Edmonton and Calgary – that it’s business as usual and they are proceeding with their capital program,” says Cooper.

She points out that the cancellation of large industrial and oil sands projects directly affects the engineering-procurement-construction (EPC) companies rather than the consulting engineering companies.

Naseem Bashir, P.Eng., current president of Consulting Engineers of Alberta and principal of Williams Engineering of Edmonton, agrees that consulting firms are holding their own and even continuing to expand. His own firm is seeing double-digit growth over the year to March 2009, and he knows that firms are reporting that salaries are still rising, by 3-6%.

“The only tough market out here,” Bashir says, “is land development and anything related to housing – single family and condos.”  But, he adds, “Don’t believe what the papers tell you. It is tougher out there, but for those well positioned and diversified, the market is still good.”

Cooper adds, “In comparison to the rest of Canada the future of the consulting engineering industry in Alberta looks positive.”




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