Source: The Leader-Post (Regina)
Published: July 31st 2008
Location, location, location -- as any realtor will
tell you, being in the right place is often the key
factor in choosing where to live.
Or build a business.
Or establish an entire city, when it comes right down to it.
It was certainly true in 1881, when a brief meeting of the Canadian Pacific Railway in St. Paul, Minnesota decided on a southerly route across the Canadian Prairies for its national main line instead of a more northerly one. The decision ended Battleford's brief reign as capital of the Northwest Territories and set the stage for the scruffy tent city of Pile Of Bones (soon to be renamed Regina) to straddle the tracks and be crowned the new capital in 1882.
Though controversial at the time, subsequent history proved the railway got it right by cutting a swath through some of the most productive farmland in the world -- bringing affluence and influence to Regina in the process.
Fast-forward 127 years and Canadian Pacific is once again at the heart of a decision about location that will directly affect the fortunes of Regina for decades to come.
If people didn't take much notice when Canadian Pacific said earlier this month it was going ahead with a huge intermodal transport facility five kilometres west of the city, they are certainly talking about it now that Loblaw Companies Ltd., Canada's largest food distributor, has announced a $200-million warehouse facility close to the site.
This is just the first stage. The storage and distribution centre will eventually grow to cover almost a million square feet and serve all Loblaw stores in Western Canada. It will employ up to 1,500 people and cost about $350 million to construct. About 1,400 trucks a week will use the facility and the provincial government plans to upgrade nearby roads and highways.
Make no mistake, this is huge for Regina -- and it's just the beginning.
"Eventually, we will see more warehouses, distribution centres, services and retail operations, all in an area much larger than Regina's current industrial park," says Regina Mayor Pat Fiacco.
With rail, road and air transport closely linked, the aim is to make Regina a global distribution hub, fulfilling the dreams of pioneers who saw the city's location in the centre of the continent not as an isolating factor, but a geographic advantage.
What adds to the potential of the project is the renewed appeal of economical rail transport in an era of high fuel costs.
Loblaw -- already Canadian Pacific Railway's biggest customer -- calls Regina's location "ideal" and says the intermodal facility fits perfectly with its strategy of "taking more and more product off the road" to address fuel and environmental issues.
The potential economic impact of the intermodal facility can't be overstated -- as big in its own way as the decision by Canadian Pacific to make tracks to Regina more than a century ago.