David Gardner, Vice President, Marketing, Chaordix
In less than 10 years, I moved to Calgary twice.
The first time, in 2007, was exciting and scary at the same time. I had just graduated from university and decided to leave my hometown of Winnipeg. But, it wasn’t until I moved back to Calgary in 2017, from San Francisco, in which I realized what Calgary truly means and has afforded me.
While it goes without saying what a great city San Francisco is, living there never quite felt like home. While yes, it was California, and I could enjoy the beauty of the ocean, beaches and gazing at palm trees while working in the mecca of innovation and technology, but there was something missing. The warmth I was used to from fellow Calgarians and our community spirit, was gone. So too was 300+ days of sunshine a year.
There was a lot more to it than that as well.
Was it the outrageous cost of living in San Francisco? Even with a competitive salary in San Francisco, the only way to afford a home was to move outside the city. By doing so, we’d be looking at a morning commute over 60 minutes. Also learning first-hand the complexities of the American healthcare system, seeing the disparity of rich and poor every day, and worrying about the cost of preschool.
When we did make it back home to visit, I saw how Calgary was transforming. Changes in the East Village. New shops in Inglewood. Walking through a revitalized Bridgeland. And so much more happening in every corner and quadrant of the city. It reminded me of the same feeling I got when I first moved to Calgary almost a decade earlier. Even during the worst of the downturn in Calgary, I could sense optimism.
I’d marvel at new architecture like the Peace Bridge and National Music Center. Buildings and bridges on par with anything back in San Francisco. While we liked to spoil ourselves in San Francisco with every hipster trend imaginable, I was surprised to see the exact same options readily available throughout Calgary at new bustling restaurants and cool coffee shops opening on the regular. From avocado toast to microbreweries, and large bike paths and vast dog parks, Calgary didn’t so much remind me of Houston or other cities we’re commonly compared to. It reminded me of Seattle, Portland, and yes, even San Francisco, which I could attest to first hand.
But the rarest resource is great people. And that’s what Calgary is most rich in. It’s what leaving and then returning to our city taught me.
With over a million people, I think we’ve found our sweet spot. There’s always enough to do here, to keep us busy and entertained. But we can have it all with less congestion, a lower cost of living, and, most importantly, a much greater quality of life.
Still, Calgary seems to be one of the world’s best kept secrets. Perhaps we like it this way. After all, it’s only a matter of time again before more brilliant and ingenious minds catch on and also make this city their own. And we will welcome them, like we have always done before. Anytime you have a place with so much talent and a willingness to reinvent and transform – you attract the best in the world. As our industries evolve and change, to those that are more green and digitally-inclined, we continue to lead by example.
This is what I love most about Calgary. We keep surprising visitors and new transplants to our city, and breaking down stereotypes. From fashion to food, Stampedes to software, it's how our city continues to offer the best of the best. Even compared to any other world-class cities. But we do it in our own unique way.
It’s easy to reflect on how Calgary has changed over the years, but also on how nothing has really changed.
Perhaps we’ve always been this creative, innovative and trendsetting all along?