Mary Moran is president and chief executive officer of Calgary Economic Development.
In the aftermath of our Amazon HQ2 bid, there’s a lasting learning opportunity from this once-in-a-lifetime event.
We didn’t succeed in winning HQ2 this time, but we are much better positioned to market our strengths and address our weaknesses.
Our strengths are largely evident - especially after the positive response to our marketing campaign, which supported Calgary’s 200-page HQ2 bid submission. But we also need to take a hard look at our weaknesses. It’s not always pleasant, but this reflection will help us ensure Calgary remains economically vibrant for decades to come.
This perspective will be vital to Calgary’s economic strategy that’s being developed to go to city council in June. With an evolving economy, we need to build on our legendary entrepreneurialism and strong, largely energy-focused, tech-based talent pool to create the environment to succeed in the uncertain world ahead.
Calgary has prospered for decades because we have the highest concentration of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) workers in Canada. But does our workforce have the right mix of tech skills for the looming technological changes across all sectors?
The Amazon process suggests we don’t. So do the hundreds of unfilled jobs for software engineer and developers with the top high-tech companies in Calgary today.
We have exceptional talent - competiveness studies universally make that point - but we must round out our skills for tomorrow’s economy. The rapid technological advances transforming all industries - including the game-changing opportunities in energy, agriculture and logistics - require a more diverse set of STEM workers than we have traditionally had here.
For example, software engineers and developers represent up to 63 per cent of the total engineers in the major cities in Canada, but about 25 per cent in Calgary. The 2017 CBRE tech talent city ranking saw Calgary drop from fifth to sixth, which is largely attributable to the rapid growth in software engineers and developers working in places such as Waterloo, Vancouver, Toronto and even Edmonton.
As Calgary adapts to the new reality, it is well positioned to be a leading centre for the Industrial Internet of Things in Canada. We have the industrial sectors, the cluster of head offices, unlocked capital and strong industrial industry expertise, but we need a deeper and more diverse talent pool for the exponential technological changes.
For Calgary Economic Development, we will continue to recruit companies - some might even be home runs, like HQ2. Most will be doubles and singles. We will also recruit senior tech talent to be a catalyst for growth, but much of our focus will be working with private sector, government and education to build both short- and long-term solutions to round out our homegrown talent pipeline for the new economy. People are Calgary’s most valuable assets and we need to invest in them to secure a prosperous future.