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Alberta will open a trade office in Houston in the new year in the hopes that “eyeball-to-eyeball” contact with Texas oil and gas executives and investors will help reverse a flow of capital, investment and people to the United States.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney spent three days last week in Texas, where he said a good chunk of money that has left Alberta’s energy sector over the past few years has ended up. It has fuelled exploration in the Eagle Ford and Permian shale basins, has driven liquefied natural gas exports in the Gulf of Mexico, and has created jobs, Mr. Kenney said

He split his time between Houston and Dallas where he met with executive teams at oil giants ExxonMobil and Chevron. He also met with the heads of global investment firms and other energy companies, though his office would not provide details citing commercial sensitivities.

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“It is critically important to develop actual eyeball-to-eyeball relationships with these CEOs and major investors who make multibillion-dollar decisions that affect thousands of jobs every year. That’s why we’re down here,” Mr. Kenney said.

Alberta’s new Houston office will fall under the Department of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism, similar to provincial trade set-ups in cities such as Hong Kong, Beijing and London. It will work in tandem with Alberta’s office in Washington.

Trade press secretary Justin Brattinga said the idea of the new office is to build relationships with U.S. government and industry, and pursue investment opportunities for Alberta.

Mr. Brattinga said in an e-mail that the office will also generate investment leads for the province and “seek partnerships of mutual benefit” – something Mr. Kenney made a point of during his trip to Texas last week.

Earlier this year, a Texas realty company cast its eye north, deluging Western Canadian businesses with brochures about the Lone Star state.

Boasting about the state’s booming economy, tax incentives and ranch-style properties, it offered to link prospective clients with banks, accountants and lawyers to ease their move to the U.S.

The company, Arrowstar, told the Canadian Press in September it had helped about 40 Canadian companies move to the Houston area over the past 18 months, the majority of which were oil and gas drillers.

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Alberta’s energy sector is awash with examples of companies moving south of the border.

Last month, energy giant Encana announced plans to move its legal base from Canada to the U.S. Precision Drilling Corp., the country’s largest contract drilling company, now does 70 per cent of its business outside Canada and all of the company’s officers are based in Houston.

Enter the new Texas trade office, Alberta’s second full office in the U.S.

Along with developing relationships and trying to attract investment north, it will keep an eye on the Texas energy industry, advise the Alberta government on sector trends and seek to influence oil and gas leaders in Houston.

Mr. Kenney told media Friday he was happy with his trip to Texas and was encouraged to see continued interest in job creation and investment in Alberta and Western Canada, including major investments in liquefied natural gas and petrochemical facilities.

“Some of these things are going to take years to get done, but it’s very important we reach out and let these huge global job creators know Alberta is open for business,” he said.

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Mr. Brattinga said no decisions have been made yet on the new office’s budget or staffing.

Texas is Alberta’s second-largest trading partner, after Illinois, with $13-billion in goods and services flowing between the two each year.

With reports from Kelly Cryderman and The Canadian Press

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