Calgary is the place where bright minds and big ideas come together with an unmatched spirit to help solve global challenges.
The framework required to achieve this ambitious vision – as outlined in the city’s economic strategy, Calgary in the New Economy – dominated the conversation at Calgary Economic Development’s annual Report to the Community event. Together, business, community and government leaders discussed the forces that shaped Calgary’s economy in 2021 and will drive growth this year.
With the challenges of the last two years, Calgary Economic Development pressure-tested the economic strategy with hundreds of Calgarians in 2021 and heard it remains the right approach for the times.
The updated strategy lays out a path forward for Calgary to create a more resilient, diverse and inclusive economy with opportunities for all. It lists five connected economic drivers – Talent, Innovation, Livability, Business Environment and Brand – that together support a future-proof, sustainable economy for Calgary.
Embracing our future together
Reflected in this year’s theme of embracing our future together, speakers highlighted optimism for Calgary’s path towards inclusive growth and diversification.
“We are a city where creative people and ambitious companies converge to make an impact and truly look to build solutions that can change the world,” said Brad Parry, President and CEO, Calgary Economic Development.
“Calgary is a city that is changing with the world and helping change the world as we take on global challenges.”
The strategy includes a commitment to Indigenous Reconciliation and Equity, Diversity and Inclusion for an economy that is accessible for everyone.
“Until everyone in our city feels they matter, and they belong, we haven’t done enough,” said Sarah Meilleur, CEO, Calgary Public Library.
2021 highlights and forward momentum
Perceptions research that Calgary Economic Development conducted in major Canadian, North American and global markets in late 2021 revealed that there is growing positive sentiment about Calgary, with almost 90 per cent of business leaders indicating a favourable impression of the city.
Whether it’s in energy, agribusiness, life sciences, transportation and logistics, technology or creative industries – Calgary is experiencing forward momentum in economic diversification.
In 2021, a Calgary Economic Development study estimated Calgary companies, across all sectors, will spend $7.5 billion in digital transformation between 2021 and 2024 and the Alberta Energy Transition Study said a net-zero pathway in the province could produce $61 billion in economic activity by 2050.
Mayor Jyoti Gondek spoke of Calgary emerging as a global hub for cleantech innovation and a leader in energy transition.
“Shifting our narrative and securing Calgary’s position as a leader in the energy transformation may be the most important thing we do for our city’s economic future and the talent we need to attract,” said Mayor Gondek.
Calgary was recently recognized as a cleantech “ecosystem to watch” in North America and ranked Top 30 out of nearly 300 cities worldwide by Startup Genome.
“While there are great challenges ahead of us, there are also great opportunities. Calgary will continue to do bold things because we recognize the value of innovation and inclusivity of broad perspectives,” said Mayor Gondek.
Calgary Economic Development helped attract, retain or expand 30 companies and the companies supported took up 297,000 sq. ft. of downtown office space and 1.3 million sq. ft. of commercial and industrial space in 2021.
Home to bright minds
Following a successful two-year pilot program, Future Skills Centre announced last year it would invest over $5.4 million for the EDGE UP 2.0 program with Calgary Economic Development to provide training for 320 displaced oil and gas professionals for careers in tech. Provided through a work-integrated learning model, 80 per cent of program graduates secured a role or continued their education in the digital economy.
Calgary’s livability and unshakable community spirit attracts bright minds to come build their careers across many sectors.
In 2021, Calgary’s film and TV industry soared to a record $522 million as 123 projects and 276 filming permits were supported by Calgary Economic Development and the City of Calgary.
Many local startups went global last year, with over 70 companies taking part in the Trade Accelerator Program, generating 34 signed export deals as a result of the mentorship program.
A creative hub of innovation
The city is home to an increasing number of business accelerators who invest in and nurture Calgary’s startup scene in partnership with funding from various levels of government, including the Opportunity Investment Calgary Fund (OCIF). In 2021, OCIF signed six agreements to advance Calgary in the New Economy.
“OCIF investments strengthen the innovation ecosystem and support local entrepreneurs,” said Mark Blackwell, Board Chair, OCIF.
“For Calgary to attract investment, we need to transform our economy through the power of collaboration by all orders of government and industry.”
To remain a magnet for young people with an ambitious mindset for making a global impact, talent remains a key driver in the economic strategy Calgary in the New Economy.
"As a well-connected city, we contribute to a diverse business landscape that attracts top talent, who commute or re-locate, to work in sectors ranging from aviation and transportation, to tech and energy,” said Alexis von Hoensbroech, CEO of the presenting sponsor for Report to the Community, WestJet.
Calgary Economic Development’s award-winning Live Tech, Love Life talent attraction marketing campaign continues to position the city in key global markets and draw talent for local and recently re-located companies.
An inclusive economy accessible to everyone
A dynamic panel discussion included community-builders Spirit River Striped Wolf, President, Students’ Association, Mount Royal University; Gillian Hynes, Director of Reconciliation, Inclusion and Strategy, RISE Consulting; and Allison Dunne, Co-Founder, Pink Flamingo.
The passionate group examined the need to prioritize inclusivity in the community as much as economic recovery and diversification. For the vision of Calgary to reflect Calgarians, it was agreed the city must continue to engage in open, authentic conversations. Watch the complete panel discussion.
“When you bring people together from different ethnicities, with their own backgrounds, culture, education, experience, knowledge and ideas, it drives creativity and innovation,” said Navin Arora, Executive Vice-President, TELUS and President, TELUS Business Solutions, a lead sponsor of Report to the Community.
“The world is changing at a rapid pace and it’s our job, together, to be the conduit and catalysts that embrace inclusion, accelerate diversity and ensure the long-term vibrancy of the city we love.”
In Calgary, everyone is welcome to be a part of our success story as we embrace our future together.
The event was moderated by Tara McCool, Co-Host of Calgary Next and Chief Culture Officer, Foundation Automotive Corp. Thank you to presenting sponsor, WestJet, along with TELUS Business, the University of Calgary, and Postmedia Solutions for your support.
“All the work Calgary Economic Development does for our city simply would not be possible without the thought-leadership and support of our Team Calgary corporate partners,” said Joe Lougheed, Board Chair, Calgary Economic Development.
For more information on 2021 economic highlights, visit the Annual Reports page. Visit CalgaryInTheNewEconomy.com to read the economic strategy.
Full Report to the Community broadcast
2021 Calgary Economic Development Highlights
2021 Opportunity Calgary Investment Fund Highlights
Calgary in the New Economy