Quarterly News - December 2020

Welcome to the fourth issue of our Quarterly News.

In November, we formally launched Fort McMurray Wood Buffalo - the region’s place brand. Fort McMurray Wood Buffalo is the region’s new identity and destination name - representing the unity and strength of the entire region.

You might have heard an ad on the radio or watched a video on social media recently. We intentionally launched the place brand locally first. It’s important our local community and stakeholders are well-versed in the region’s place brand and messaging and can help tell our story to the rest of Canada.

Introducing Fort McMurray Wood Buffalo

Currently in the region, a local advertising campaign is introducing the place brand - Fort McMurray Wood Buffalo - the place we’re proud to call home. This is to engage our region first, as we need the communities championing this forward—breathing life into the place brand.

As a part of the local campaign we created a place brand photo frame - a ‘regional viewfinder’ - so you can share what makes this place home for you. We introduced the viewfinder and “how-to use it” on social media in this video. We can’t wait to see every corner of our incredible region photographed. When you receive your viewfinder in the mail, we would be honoured if you would post the view that makes Fort McMurray Wood Buffalo home to you with the hashtag:


Online Community Toolkit -

The place brand is accessible through an online community toolkit with videos, language and tools, focused on providing every person and business with the tools to market the region themselves. The toolkit has a place to share stories and will continue to be developed over time.

Local employers and Human Resource (HR) professionals can register for Place Brand Labour Recruitment Workshops through the toolkit. These workshops provide marketing tools and information to help attract talent and labour to our region.

image of the FMWB place brand on a computer monitor

Our Big Backyard Campaign – explore winter in our region!

Following our successful summer Explore our Big Backyard Campaign - which got over 400,000 hits - we will be releasing three new videos focusing on our region’s winter experiences. Launching in the New Year, this winter series will showcase Vista Ridge, backcountry snowmobiling, dogsledding and other outdoor adventures.

Did you know?

Residents and visitors can explore a lot of great winter activities and support our local operators!

Beyond Adventures @beyondadventuresymm has snowshoes for rent all winter. They are also the only supplier of Chilly Moose gear - Canadian designed, high performance outdoor equipment - for your backcountry trips.

For the ultimate northern Canadian experience you can book a Mush McMurray tour with @mushmcmurray! Tours include a half hour dog sled ride in comfortable handcrafted sleds - equipped with luxurious custom sled bags. You will end your tour with a toasty fire to warm up and a kennel tour where you will meet the amazing athletes of Mush McMurray.

Help support local and keep exploring our big beautiful backyard this winter!

woman snowshoeing with her dog
dogsled team in the winter

Building a community of inventors, entrepreneurs and mentors.

Startup YMM - Fort McMurray Wood Buffalo’s small business incubator- opened its doors virtually this summer offering virtual memberships and online programming and events.

With over 80 members already, we’re excited to announce that FREE virtual membership has been extended until March 31, 2021! Learn more about the many benefits of becoming a member here.

startupymm logo

Following all public health guidelines, the physical Startup YMM location on Franklin Avenue and Marshall Street will open once construction is complete at the end of 2020. For updates on the space and highlights from the year - check out the blog post here.

You heard it here first! Startup YMM is excited to announce the re-launch of the “Thinkers. Inventors. Doers.” Speaker Series designed to inspire local businesses and community leaders. This four-part virtual series will feature influential business leaders including David Segal, Debbie Travis, Johnny ‘Cupcakes’ Earle and Arlene Dickinson.

three women in front of the startup ymm sign

Regional Labour Study Employer Survey - Deadline Extended

In partnership with regional stakeholders, Fort McMurray Wood Buffalo Economic Development and Tourism (FMWBEDT) is conducting a labour study. This study will provide a five-year forecast of labour market needs. It encompasses the entire Fort McMurray Wood Buffalo region, including Indigenous communities, and will assist local and regional employers with practical strategies to address workforce needs and shortages.

To allow more time for all employers to participate in this important project the survey deadline has been extended.

NEW FMWBEDT Board Members

I am honoured to introduce the two newest Directors to our Board: Melanie Antoine and Jon Close. Here’s more about them.

Melanie Antoine

Melanie Antoine’s roots run deep in the Wood Buffalo region as she grew up in Alberta’s oldest community of Fort Chipewyan. Melanie is a member of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, learning both a traditional lifestyle of hunting, fishing, gathering and an entrepreneurial lifestyle that embraced new learning and opportunities.

In 2008, Melanie and her husband Lloyd opened Antoine’s Pump and Equipment Maintenance (A.P.E. Maintenance Ltd). Today, A.P.E. Maintenance has evolved into one of the region's leading industrial maintenance service companies offering mechanical maintenance in the region as well as freight transport services to the residents of the northern communities. The company’s service and logistics expansion has been successful in developing local business capability and improving support to the region - in a way that encourages the development and betterment of community members across the region.

Melanie and her company’s name are synonymous with generosity in the region. Melanie is a volunteer with many non-profit organizations including serving as Chair of the Northern Lights Health Foundation Board of Directors, supporting the Paul Martin Aboriginal Entrepreneurship program as well as Fort Chipewyan’s Santa’s Anonymous – to name only a few.

Melanie continues to identify and pursue growth and employment opportunities that build better communities.


Jon Close

Jon Close has focused his work and life experience on helping small business and non-profit leaders reach their potential to succeed.

For over 30 years, Jon’s focus has called him to serve in a variety of community economic development leadership roles including: Executive Director of the South East Alberta Economic Development Corporation, Director of the South East Alberta Economic Development Authority, Member of the Alberta Premier’s Council on Economic Development, Member of the Canmore Economic Development Committee, and Director & Governance Committee Chair of the Rural Alberta’s Development Fund.

Jon Close’s direct experience serving Fort McMurray Wood Buffalo started over 20 years ago with Community Futures Wood Buffalo (CFWB).

In 2017, while residing full time in Fort McMurray, Jon provided on-site coaching, mentoring, training, and access to capital for SMEs recovering from the 2016 Horse River wildfire. Over that period, “Business up Inc.”, a company owned by Jon and wife Colette, worked with CFWB to support hundreds of small businesses and social enterprises. It was especially during this time that they both grew to love the community and its people.

Jon Close is passionate about the important role small businesses and non-profits deliver in achieving community economic development.


blue_line-11.png We really enjoyed sharing the work we’ve done this year and our next year’s priorities at Momentum 2020. Thank you to everyone who took the time to join our virtual broadcast.

If you missed it - the video is available here. Wishing you and yours a safe, healthy and joyous holiday season.


Kevin Weidlich, CEO Fort McMurray Wood Buffalo Economic Development & Tourism

Impacts on our region

With stronger mandatory measures now in effect across the province, it is more important than ever to work together and stop the spread of COVID-19. Global oil demand is higher than at the beginning of the year and oil prices continue to stabilize around the $40 mark. The following captures our progress as we continue Stage 2 of Alberta’s relaunch.


Source: as of December 14, 2020


OIL PRICES: Western Canadian Select Crude

Source: as of December 14, 2020



Not only does investment in the oil sands spur economic growth and provide broad-based prosperity for Alberta and the Fort McMurray Wood Buffalo region, it supports and creates jobs that bring people to our region.

For years, people have been attracted to Fort McMurray Wood Buffalo for the range of rewarding career opportunities in the oil sands industry. It is the sense of community, quality of life, cultural diversity and rich natural beauty that makes them stay.

With oil price declines and restructuring, we face a new and challenging economic reality. Despite 2020 production declines, the long-term oil sands outlook is minimally impacted. There is opportunity for Fort McMurray Wood Buffalo if we continue to be competitive – as an industry, and as a region. Difficult decisions will need to be made but they are key for our competitiveness and long-term viability.

The oil sands industry remains committed to working on strategies that strengthen vibrant communities and provide a high quality of life for workers and families.

Did you know?

Roughly 30% of Fort McMurray’s resident workforce is in the oil and gas industry, as compared to the provincial average of just six percent. (Source: Oil Sands Community Alliance)

Oil machinery in the winter at dusk