It’s all about ‘Embracing the Future Together.’
That was the theme of Calgary Economic Development (CED) annual Report to the Community Thursday, which reflected on the economic drivers for 2021 and gave a glimpse of what Calgarians can expect in the future.
The CED report focused on the highlights of the 2021 results of Calgary Economic Development and Opportunity Calgary Investment Fund’s Calgary in the New Economy Strategy.
Coinciding with the theme of “Embracing the Future Together,” the report also laid out the updated strategy that looks to focus on creating a more diverse, inclusive, and resilient economy.
Embracing the future by changing landscapes
To do that, Calgary Economic Development wants to focus on five areas: talent, innovation, livability, business environment, and brand, says Brad Parry.
The CED president and CEO spoke at the event, emphasizing that Calgary is a city of potential.
“The key to capitalizing on this opportunity, as our theme today makes clear, really is about embracing our future together,” he said in his speech.
Afterwards, Parry elaborated to Calgary Citizen about what helped shape Calgary’s economy over the past year.
“We’re seeing companies believe that they can grow, that we can have a diversified economy, but still understand where our roots are,” he says.
Diversifying the city’s strengths
Parry knows that energy will always be a big industry in Calgary, but believes we’re seeing a diversification of our stock portfolio.
“We’ve over-indexed on one stock,” he says. “But now we have other industries like life sciences, financial technologies, creative industries, starting to take hold and provide us with that buoyancy that we need to have in our community.”
What’s helped these industries come to the city, Parry adds, is that we’re starting to see more collaboration and less competition between companies.
“People want to work together and build the ship together to make this the great city that it’s going to be.”
Loaded with opportunity
When it comes to the potential of Calgary, Parry sees an opening of limitless opportunity.
“We’re seeing people placing bets in our city,” he says. “We had more venture capital investment last year than any time in history, we’re gonna probably beat that this year.”
One reason for that, Parry says, is that companies and industries are seeing that ‘can-do’ attitude that Calgary is known for.
“People from the outside are realizing that some groovy things are happening here and they want to get in on it,” he says, adding the city has opportunities across multiple sectors.
“We have an opportunity to build a community that’s inclusive, welcoming, and supports businesses and growth.”
But there will be challenges
Parry recognizes that opportunities always come with their challenges.
“The challenge is going to make sure we collaborate and make sure that we have that vision to want to diversify and to have multiple industries be successful here,” he says.
“We have to make sure that we’re helping Calgarians get back to work.”
Work-integrated learning programs — the term given to educational activities that integrate academic learning of a discipline with its practical application in the workplace — have shown that Calgary has a young and highly educated population with a large labour force participation rate.
Because of that, Parry says the city can’t miss the opportunity to get those people back to work and “back into the high-demand skilled jobs that we’re going to need to keep supporting business growth.”
Tapping into the city’s commitment
Mayor Jyoti Gondek also spoke at the Report to the Community and put a spotlight on some of the local success stories over the past month.
First, Gondek spoke about the recently approved strategic plan that affirmed the city’s commitment to economic, environmental, and social priorities.
“Included in this strategy is our commitment to downtown revitalization,” she said. “Which is backed by a $250 million investment in activating public spaces, fostering the creative economy, and converting traditional office spaces to better, more engaging uses.”
While Gondek says the city is committed to certainty and predictability in the funding and finances models that drive their operating budget, she also said they are looking at other energy opportunities.
“We’re seeking ways that alternative energy solutions like electrification or hydrogen, can ensure our municipality reduces its emissions in a manner that leverages funding made available through federal and provincial programs.”
Green energy transition
Reaffirming her environmental priorities while calling for programs like Pathway to Net Zero and the Carbon Removal Accelerator, Gondek spoke about what the green energy industry could do for Calgary.
“The Alberta energy transition study commissioned by Calgary Economic Development in late 2021 suggests the cleantech sector could create 170,000 jobs and contribute $61 billion to the GDP by 2050,” she said.
Gondek also pointed to the diversity of the people when it comes to green technology startups.
“When it comes to clean-tech startups, more than half of these ventures are led by first-time founders — 28 per cent are people born outside of Canada, and 22 per cent are women,” she added.
Shifting the narrative
For Gondek, diversifying Calgary’s economy includes diversifying Calgary’s business leadership, and shifting the narrative to secure Calgary’s position as a leader in energy transformation.
By supporting startups, Gondek says that Calgary Economic Development’s shift in thinking and strategizing has been a success.
“Calgary can compete globally with a critical mass of talented people that are needed for companies to thrive.”
Closing out her speech, Gondek talked about how Calgary is a city of opportunity and that the CED has been successful because the city believes in ideas and passion.
“There are also great opportunities, and we will continue to collaborate and do bold things because we recognize the value of innovation and inclusivity of broad perspectives,” she said.
“Calgary is committed to being a city where all Calgarians are part of our economic future.”
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