For the last five months I immersed myself in the daily operations of Calgary Economic Development and the added proximity has given me a far better perspective on the challenges and the opportunities that exist for this great city.
The experience also leaves me confident that regardless of the challenges we face, and there are many these days, we have the people in our community with the attitude and the ability to persevere through tough times and prosper.
My time in the role as Executive Chair for Calgary Economic Development began in August. Mary Moran, our President and CEO, was given a leave of absence by the Board of Directors to lead the Calgary 2026 team exploring a bid for the Winter Olympic & Paralympic Games.
The city decided not to pursue a bid so my tenure as Executive Chair comes to an end in mid-January with Mary’s return to the organization she’s led with distinction since 2015. I go back to my role as the Board Chair with a better understanding of the day-to-day efforts to promote economic growth and greater appreciation for the people who do it.
Aside from welcoming Mary back, I have a few thoughts on my time as Executive Chair.
From the rollout of an Economic Strategy for Calgary to the first announcements from the Opportunity Calgary Investment Fund to the Trade Accelerator Program that helps local companies to find new markets it was a busy time. Even still, the growing challenges from the deteriorating business environment is the biggest takeaway I have from the last half year.
Calgary is famous for its entrepreneurial spirit, but many of our companies are feeling real pressure these days. The changing economic landscape has created a crisis for many businesses and it is a threat to the vibrancy of our city and quality of life for all Calgarians.
As I am sure is the case for many Calgarians, I can’t begin to express my frustration with our inability to build pipelines this country desperately needs to move responsibly-produced energy to global markets. While other countries increase production, our industry is seemingly subject to every delay imaginable; which is undermining the economy in our city, our province and our country.
At Calgary Economic Development, we have stepped up our advocacy for the industry and promoting Calgary as a centre of excellence for all things energy. As companies and individuals, we all need to do more to make our case to governments on critical issues that impact our community.
Our concerns must be heard at City Hall, the provincial legislature and on Parliament Hill, or they won’t ever be addressed.
As a city, we must also adapt to ensure Calgary continues to be a leading centre for business and place of opportunity for all. We must allow business the opportunity to succeed here and give companies the confidence that the business environment supports their ambitions and encourages them to grow in Calgary.
We need to eliminate the burdens on companies and remove obstacles to success so they can compete and thrive locally. In these challenging times, we need to help business drive Calgary’s economy forward and create opportunities for all citizens to prosper.
Steve Allan is Board Chair for Calgary Economic Development