AEG member profile: Alberta firms look to B.C. for trade opportunities

The following is a profile that appeared at www.oilweek.com looking at AEG’s upcoming mission to Vancouver. For more information on the program and to register, visit our site here.

Like the valves his company sells that play such a vital role in helping oil and gas flow safely and efficiently through pipelines, pumping stations and other energy infrastructure, Terry O’Flynn is hoping Alberta Enterprise Group’s (AEG) effort to enhance the communication between Alberta and B.C. business people will lead to an appreciation of the importance of getting Canada’s products to west coast ports.

“I’m hoping this mission will become a conduit for future conversations, as opposed to perceived barriers that don’t exist,” said O’Flynn, who is chairman of AEG and also president of Edmonton-based Prism Flow Products Inc., a 20-year-old firm that is one of the province’s largest valve sales and service businesses.

He was referring to Canada Connects: British Columbia, being held from November 5-7 in Vancouver, and aimed at fostering an appreciation of the challenges and opportunities for business leaders in B.C. and Alberta.

The event, to be held at the Terminal City Club, one of Vancouver’s oldest and most respected private clubs, will include business leaders from both B.C. and Alberta and will focus on business opportunities in the province, as well as challenges posed by First Nations issues and other impediments to resource development.

For Prism Flow, which has no office presence in B.C., but does sell products to companies active there, there’s no direct business advantage from involvement in AEG’s B.C. mission, or in other past outreach trips to meet business and opinion leaders in Washington, Quebec, Geneva and elsewhere.

“Our company is involved in AEG because it’s the right thing to do,” he said. “Any business advantage we would experience from it would be indirect.”

O’Flynn, a native Albertan, along with his partner Rick Stanton, also an Albertan, built Prism Flow from a two-person start-up to a company that employs 19 and distributes valve products and accessories throughout western Canada.

They, along with general manager Brian Anstice, can boast more than 100 years of valve related experience.
The company, which generates sales worth several million dollars a year, specializes in the energy industry, where valves play a vital role “from the wellhead forwards,” in O’Flynn’s words.

It prides itself on maintaining deep relationships with its customers and on having knowledgeable staff, which it has been able to do because it remains “loyal” to its staff, with no layoffs, even during difficult times for the energy industry, such as now.

“We suck it up,” he said, adding that that loyalty to staff pays off when business is going “flat out”.

That loyalty extends to its suppliers, with Prism Flow carrying the Frontier line of valves, the only ones still manufactured in Alberta.

However, it does carry an extensive line of valves manufactured in South Korea and elsewhere as well.

To O’Flynn, who has gone on AEG trips to Washington, Quebec and elsewhere, it’s important for Alberta businesses to reach out to their neighbors in B.C., where opposition to oil and gas pipelines is frustrating to Alberta business people so reliant on the oil and gas sector.

“It’s important to go a visit and communicate face to face,” he said. “AEG is all about providing information and countering the negativism. What we’ve found in all of the missions (to Washington, Quebec and elsewhere) is there is commonality.”

In the case of a neighboring province like B.C., where many Albertans vacation to or own recreational property, the ties are stronger than might be commonly assumed, he said.

“We need to respect what each of us has (in terms of economic strengths) rather than focus on the negatives. B.C. is the gateway to Asia for energy and other products. No jurisdictions should be ashamed of their strengths. In B.C. it’s forestry and tourism and in Alberta it is oil and gas.”

And now, with the prospect of several LNG export projects being built on the west coast, the two provinces have a great deal in common, he said.

One area of commonality, which he said is important to communicate, is that the Alberta business people are as concerned about the environment as their counterpart.

For example, he is a strong supporter of the North Saskatchewan Riverkeeper, an Edmonton-based body that promotes the preservation of the North Saskatchewan River watershed, from the Rockies to Prince Albert, where the North and South Saskatchewan Rivers meet.

One can have strong views about the environment, but also recognize that Canada needs to get its products to market, he said.

“Canadians have to get comfortable with these infrastructure (pipeline) projects, which are good for the entire country.”

Just as the valves his company sells allow pipelines and other energy infrastructure to operate safely and efficiently, O’Flynn believes pipelines are the best way to transport Canada’s energy to foreign markets.

Alberta Enterprise Group is a member-based, non-profit business advocacy organization. AEG members employ more than 150,000 Canadians in all sectors of the economy. Visit www.albertaenterprise.ca to inquire about membership in the AEG movement.