The 2024 Economic Outlook, hosted by Calgary Economic Development and powered by ATB, took place Nov. 1. 2023. An event replay will is available on our YouTube channel here.
Record population growth, strong commodity prices and consumer spending are expected to position Calgary and Alberta well in the year ahead, however challenging economic headwinds will have a dampening impact on growth, economists said at Calgary Economic Development’s 2024 Economic Outlook, powered by ATB.
“Calgary's resilience and adaptability have always been hallmarks of our community. By coming together to explore what’s in store for 2024, we are taking an essential step to secure a prosperous future for our city," said Jyoti Gondek, Mayor of Calgary.
“We have the obligation to ensure all Calgarians have the ability to participate in prosperity as well as progress,” said Mayor Gondek.
Collaboration among community partners is imperative to build resiliency in the face of expected macroeconomic challenges.
“We need to be a city that’s underpinned by innovation. But it can’t and won’t be done by one sector, one organization, one company, one councillor, one post-secondary or one person,” said Brad Parry, President and CEO of Calgary Economic Development, and CEO of the Opportunity Calgary Investment Fund.
“We need to do it ourselves, and we need to do it together.”
Calgary positioned relatively well in year ahead
Global economic headwinds are expected to impact Calgary and Alberta in 2024, but comparatively less than other regions across Canada and around the world.
ATB Financial forecasts GDP growth in Alberta will be 2.7 per cent this year and 2.0 per cent in 2024.
While expecting slowed growth, the province is comparatively more resilient than others across Canada with diversification across the energy sector, higher investment trends and the influx of migrants.
“In the past year, Alberta’s economy has weathered the inflation storm better than most. Strong population growth and a revitalized energy sector will continue to put Alberta’s economy ahead of the crowd even as it slows in the face of higher interest rates,” said Mark Parsons, Vice President and Chief Economist at ATB Financial.
“With headwinds building, we expect growth to slow next year, before picking up again in 2025.”
Parsons described Alberta’s position is stronger relative to other provinces with energy prices, record-shattering population growth and emerging sectors – including aviation, carbon capture and utilization, and food manufacturing.
Stephen Poloz, Special Advisor at Osler and former Governor of the Bank of Canada, spoke to the possibility that Canada and the world may be headed for a recession.
“Even if we avoid a major recession at the global level, we can all expect economic weakness while inflation works its way down.”
In late October, the Bank of Canada released their forecast that the economy will grow by 0.9 percent and inflation will be 3.0 percent in 2024.
“What we do know for certain is that we’ve entered the next age of uncertainty, and the economy will become even less forecastable,” shares Stephen Poloz. “We are entering a multi-polar world – with a rise in populism, increasing geopolitical challenges and a steady erosion of international collaboration.”
Poloz named five tectonic forces – technological progress, rising income inequality, aging population, rising debt and climate change – not captured in current economic forecasting.
“I know the situation looks like we have a lot of headwinds,” Poloz continued, “but we can figure this out in a usual way - through hard work and ingenuity. Calgary and Alberta have proven their mettle time and again.”
Talent continues to see Calgary as place of opportunity
Despite global uncertainty, anchor companies continue to invest in Calgary in 2023, including Coca Cola’s $70 million single largest infrastructure investment since 2018, and the Canadian Pacific Rail and Kansas City Rail merger.
Multinational scaleups including Applexus, EventCombo, Vantage Circle and Terrestrial Energy have also expanded their footprints and opened offices and headquarters in Calgary. The international firms join the pool of local scaleups that position Calgary’s startup ecosystem valuation at $5.2 billion, according to Startup Genome.
“This is why it’s so important to make sure Calgary has the talent we need – not just tech talent, but all talent – knows what our community is really about and what opportunities are accessible here,” said Parry.
As migrants continue to move to Calgary in record numbers, new preliminary perceptions research released for the event indicates talent continues to see Calgary as a place of opportunity.
This year, as the city ranked the seventh most livable city in the world by the Economist Intelligence Unit, sixty-eight per cent of talent surveyed thinks Calgary offers an opportunity for a meaningful livelihood.
Sixty-eight per cent agree Calgary offers a high quality of life – down one per cent from 2022, and 66 per cent agree Calgary has opportunities for talent to grow – down two percent.
The preliminary results conducted by Stone-Olafson for Calgary Economic Development are based on online surveys with 1,434 people this month in key markets in Canada and the United States.
Headwinds cause decline in business leader perceptions of Calgary
While perceptions among talent are steady from last year, geopolitical strife, an inflationary environment and slowing economic growth are giving business leaders pause on Calgary.
“When speaking with our clients and prospects outside of Calgary and Alberta, we’re hearing and seeing companies give more of a tempered thought about growth and investment,” said Parry.
Calgary experienced a 16 per cent drop in business leaders that see Calgary as having a resilient economy year-over-year, to 56 per cent. Fifty-nine per cent of leaders agree Calgary has a diverse economy (down from 77 per cent), and 68 per cent of leaders are optimistic about the opportunities in Calgary (down from 76 per cent).
The preliminary perceptions research confirms the current environment is impacting business leader perceptions of Calgary after a year of steady gains in 2022, which positions the city back to 2021 levels.
Investing in our community – together – to navigate headwinds
Continued investment in talent development initiatives, Calgary’s innovation scene and emerging sector will continue to advance progress towards the economic strategy, Calgary in the New Economy through tools like the $100 million Opportunity Calgary Investment Fund.
The fund has supported over $800 million in investment to date, the creation, training and retention of over 3,000 jobs and more than 500 local companies supported or scaled.
“This looks like investing in a housing strategy, investing in arts and culture and creating more seats at our tables so newcomers also have a voice to contribute to the long-term prosperity of the city,” said Parry.
“Let’s not bet on anyone else doing this for us. Let’s take control of our narrative and tell our own stories, because we have to do it ourselves, and we have to do it together,” said Parry.
Community and business leaders share reasons for optimism
A panel of community leaders took the stage to discuss how collaboration plays a critical role in building a resilient economy.
“As we continue to move forward and advance in the new millennium, it’s important we are bringing others along and shaping the future in a way that our children and our neighbours’ children can find a home here,” said Matthew Foss, Vice President Research & Public Policy, Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business.
A strong Indigenous economy is vital to Calgary’s long-term prosperity, a priority supported by the community’s commitment to advance Reconciliation and the removal of systemic barriers in the economic strategy, Calgary in the New Economy.
“Do good work, in a good way. The path forward should include a focus to Indigenize the workforce through job creation, training opportunities and procurement processes, said Foss. “This will bring about change, by bringing Indigenous people into the center of these innovations happening in the community.”
Building on Calgary’s strengths, the need to remove barriers emerged as a common thread among panelists.
“We need to stop differentiating by sector – for example between tech and energy. Let’s try to combine these sectors and see what we can do when we combine our focus,” said Neeraj Gupta, Serial Entrepreneur, Angel Investor & Board Advisor, Lawcubator Technologies Inc.
While uncertainty remains, innovation in sectors such as the energy industry are key opportunities for Calgary and the province.
“We need to stop discounting ourselves. We have a world class city and a world-class energy industry. We need to start believing in ourselves and know that we turn the dial on anything we set our minds to,” said Janet Annesley, Chief Sustainability Officer, Kiwetinohk Energy Corp.
Panelists closed with one word that describes the opportunities for Calgary’s future in 2024 – conversations, collaborations and growth.
"On behalf of everyone at Calgary Economic Development and the Opportunity Calgary Investment Fund, we thank our incredible sponsors who made this event possible, including our presenting sponsor ATB, as well as CAAT Pension Plan, Calgary Herald, WSP in Canada, Mount Royal University, RGO, Stone Olafson and University of Calgary,” said Joe Lougheed, Board Chair, Calgary Economic Development.
For insights into Calgary’s economic strategy for 2024 and beyond, learn more about the vision to create long term prosperity and opportunities for all in Calgary in the New Economy.
Photo Credit: Neil Zeller