If you asked the average citizen if they thought Calgary would return to a pre-pandemic economy in 2022, almost nobody would believe it.
Calgary Economic Development’s (CED) annual outlook released last week is sparking optimism that the province and city could return to those levels in a year, though it could take an additional year to make up for lost growth.
In fact, ATB chief economist Todd Hirsch spoke at the report’s unveiling and said the province is expected to see 6.3% growth in 2021 and another 4.3% in 2022.
It’s a case of perception leading reality, says Calgary Economic Development interim president and CEO Brad Parry, who says there is a reason to be positive about our city’s future.
“There is some optimism and there is some momentum. I think we have some great opportunities,” he says, adding “change” is a big theme as we look forward.
“With change comes opportunity. We have the opportunity to build communities that are more resilient, more equitable, more diverse, more inclusive, and more focused on our future prosperity.”
He says the vision for Calgary hasn’t changed — but the opportunities have shifted as the pandemic has challenged our previous ways of doing things.
Investing in the city
“I think there’s change happening, and I think it’s a good change, but there’s also an opportunity to help rebuild a community to make sure that we’re more resilient, more diverse, more inclusive,” he says.
“I think the city’s economic strategy is really about being a place where people can come and embrace technology to solve some of those biggest challenges in the world.”
That’s why the CED believes there is opportunity in the province’s digital economy.
“There’s $20 billion of digital transformation that’s scheduled to happen over the next three years in Alberta. And a big chunk of that’s going to be here in Calgary,” he says.
“Calgary’s economy is expected to outpace Canada’s economic growth this year and next.
He points to big companies such as Symend and Benevity investing in our city and calling Calgary home.
“We are seeing record levels of venture capital investment. Over half a billion dollars in the last 18 months alone. And that’s not going to stop.”
Invest in the people
One of the other key factors Parry believes we need to tap into is the people.
“We need to make sure that we’re creating opportunities for everybody, we need to have shared prosperity,” he says, adding Calgary’s always had one of the highest labour force participation rates.
“That’s important because that means people want to get back to work, people want to contribute, they want to put their time and efforts back and believe in our community.”
Parry believes the city needs to invest in its people and then they will want to stay and build prosperity here.
“If we want this to be a city where our children want to stay and thrive, it will be up to us. We need to tell our young people in Calgary and around the world that this is the place where you can live your best life and make a difference.”
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