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Movin’ On Up: AMTA Celebrates New Digs

CALGARY, Alta. - The Nov. 20 grand opening of the Alberta Motor Transport Association's (AMTA's) new Centre of Excellence was an event years in the making and featured an "all-star cast" of industry, ...

CALGARY, Alta. –The Nov. 20 grand opening of the Alberta Motor Transport Association’s (AMTA’s) new Centre of Excellence was an event years in the making and featured an “all-star cast” of industry, government and association personnel who turned out to celebrate the event.

The approximately 17,000 sq.-ft. facility at 285005 Wrangler Way in the Patton Industrial Park, seconds east of Calgary in the County of Rocky View, gives the AMTA much more and much-needed elbow room as well as more and better facilities. It also places them much closer to a broad cross-section of the people and companies with whom they deal on a daily basis.

Among the dignitaries on-hand to help kick open the doors -and who had the honour of cutting the official ceremonial cake -were AMTA president Richard Warnock, Alberta Transportation’s Roger Clarke, Robert Feagan of Alberta Employment and Immigration and Ken Vertz of the WCB. Each said a few words before they collaborated on their “knife-wielding ceremony.”

“This building has been in the works since way before I joined the organization in the late 1990s,” AMTA executive director Mayne Root, who also emceed the event, said. According to Root, the board of directors had been envisioning such a facility since the 1980s but, for one reason or another, it never came to fruition. Things finally started moving forward about five years ago, he said, when the board asked the staff to put together a plan.

Root and the late John Tessier, the much beloved manager of injury reduction and training at the time -and the man to whom the large training facility is dedicated -drew up a plan that included recommendations for what the association really needed, taking into consideration such factors as the space that would be required to house the amount and type of services they wanted to provide. The next major hurdle was to find the funding, but once that was successful the AMTA and its partner in the project -Spacemakers Construction Services -broke ground in March of 2009, with the move to the new Centre of Excellence completed on Oct. 20.

One consideration for the eventual location was “the availability of an affordable piece of property,” Root said. “We’re a not-for-profit organization so we don’t have all the money in the world and we have to depend on our members to provide that.”

Root said they looked all over Calgary but noticed that a lot of their members were moving to the southeast quadrant of the city.

“When we were first looking at property out here,” Root said, “I drove around the area for an afternoon and counted 30 trucking companies and another dozen or so companies that have the kind of trucks we deal with.”

The icing on the cake was the opening of another area to the south in which another 15 to 20 companies had set up shop so, “when you think about the concentration of trucking companies out in this area it was a given,” he said. “It all came together and we ended up in the right place at the right time and with the right piece of property, so it worked out well.”

The $3.5 million Centre of Excellence includes two state-of-the-art training rooms with computers and video projectors, the larger of which can hold 30 people at a time easily. There’s also a computer lab where people can work either individually or in small groups -and the building also features a large truck bay training facility with room for a tractor-trailer to be pulled in and tables and chairs set up around it so practical, hands-on training can be performed.

“It’s a huge improvement in the type and size of training facilities we can offer,” Root said, pointing out that the old building on Blackfoot Trail only had one room for training. The office was so small that they had to double up purposes sometimes, as remembered fondly during the opening speeches when a tale of holding meetings in the kitchen was recounted. Now there’s room for a separate board room and enough storage areas to swing several cats.

Root hopes the new elbow room will lead to more use. “In the old building we probably had the training facilities booked three days a week for at least 10 months of the year,” he said, “so now the challenge is to fill these training rooms for at least the same amount of time.” Root claimed the AMTA is already getting “a huge amount of interest” not only for its own training programs but from members who want to use the facility for their own programs, which the association will allow for a small fee. “We’re here for the benefit of the industry and that’s what we’re trying to do,” Root said.

Great new digs aside, these remain challenging times for the AMTA.

“We still have our struggles,” Root admitted. “There are still lots of companies out there who don’t see the need for an association, but on the plus side we have a good core group of companies -a lot of the large companies in the province are members -and that shows that there’s both interest and need. It’s just a matter of getting out and showing people who may not realize it yet that we do some good things and we have value for their industry.”

Root’s core message is that while the AMTA is there to represent the industry, “they need to be involved with us for us to represent them. We can represent what we think the industry wants but unless the industry actually tells us what they want all we’re doing is guessing, so we need the involvement of all the industry.”

Root pointed to the broad spectrum of businesses that make up the transport industry -diverse sectors and companies of various sizes, from the oil industry to logging, from cattle hauling, to bulk. “You name it,” he said. “And to represent them well, we need to have their involvement and their input and we can’t have that unless they join us and become part of the group.”

Members can book the AMTA’s training room for $100 a day, which Root said is cheap compared to other places, and non-members can book the facility as well, “but it costs more,” he said. “It’s here for our members and that’s another incentive to join.”

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