Calgary was positioned to emerge from several challenging years at the end of 2019. 2020 was set to be a formative year in the transition to a digital economy until a sharp decline in global oil prices and COVID-19 derailed much of the momentum.
Even with the hardships of 2020, game-changing work happened in energy, agribusiness, life sciences, aerospace and logistics and other sectors in Calgary. There was also an increased focus on environmental, societal and governance concerns.
With this new economic reality, Calgary has an economic strategy that embraces the opportunities ahead and the city is well positioned to evolve and grow.
The Board of Directors and management approved changes to our business plan at mid-year to reflect the impact of COVID-19 in 2020. The reduction in the number of companies attracted and expanded, and lower job creation and retention numbers, reflect the reality of a constrained business environment due to travel restrictions and economic uncertainty.
There was also a strategic change within the organization to refocus efforts due to the pandemic. By both helping local companies to succeed, while also ensuring we direct our focus on bigger companies, our efforts will have a broader impact on the economy.
The commitment to measurable results helps us deliver on our mandate and implement Calgary in the New Economy.
|Accelerate sector development & diversification|
|Jobs created and retained||8,074||11,455||5,534|
|Exceptional client service|
|Film production investment||$181M||$197M||$90M|
|Trade and export deals||4||13||16|
|Favorable impression of Calgary Economic Development||NA||78%||83%|
|Global recognition as a place to live, learn and do business|
|CDN workers/business leaders familiar with YYC||NA||81%/76%||NA|
|CDN business leaders perceive YYC economy as diverse||63%||64%||68%|
The impact of COVID-19 was felt more significantly in our business attraction and retention efforts than any other area. In response to the uniquely challenging situation, the Board of Directors reduced the targeted number of companies attracted and retained in 2020 from 100 to 50.
We exceeded the adjusted target and supported the attraction or retention of 54 companies, which translated into the creation or retention of more than 5,500 jobs in Calgary. Our focus also shifted to attracting larger ecosystem-building companies.
Much of the organization’s efforts went to supporting local companies in 2020, including initiatives to attract the critical tech talent needed for organizations to execute business plans. Sixteen local companies that graduated from the Trade Accelerator Program signed deals to expand into new markets.
With major industry events shifting to virtual formats in 2020, we adjusted our outreach initiatives to investment attraction and talent recruitment in top Canadian and international markets for our key sectors.
Some of our notable 2020 wins are listed below.
Calgary in the New Economy was created by our community, for our community, and in 2020, it proved to be the right strategy for the times. For all the uncertainty, the last year demonstrated the world needs what Calgary companies can provide.
Consider the COVID-19 world: a global pandemic requiring fast and efficient health solutions. Food security and international supply chains were threatened and needed innovative responses. Widely-distributed workforces proved their value, and the drive to cleaner energy remained a priority worldwide. These are all areas where Calgary excels.
Calgary in the New Economy is the roadmap for all the civic stakeholders who contribute to our city’s prosperity. The strategy builds on our established competitive advantage in industries including energy, agribusiness, transportation and logistics and high-growth sectors such as life sciences, fintech and creative industries.
As technology becomes the differentiator across all industrial sectors, and the demand for talent is a key driver of economic development, we have a large gap to fill and it’s the top priority for Calgary in the New Economy.
COVID-19 and an oil price war had a significant impact on the operations of the Opportunity Calgary Investment Fund in 2020. They prompted the Board of Directors to pause the receipt or processing of new applications and business cases, and payments on existing agreements, in April.
We refocused our energies on providing support for investee companies in the midst of economic uncertainty, and full operations resumed in July 2020 with the announcement of agreements with AltaML Inc. and Harvest Builders.
Further agreements with the SAIT DX Talent Hub, LodgeLink Inc. and Alberta IoT brought the total commitments in 2020 to approximately $18.6 million. Among the benefits of the investments, the five organizations are forecast to create more than 900 jobs, primarily in tech, over the next five years. All will make important contributions to the local innovation ecosystem and be catalysts to advance Calgary in the New Economy.
At year-end 2020, $42 million in funding had been allocated to 14 projects which supports a total investment of $636 million into the local economy. Funds are only disbursed to organizations once specific milestones are achieved. With COVID-19, and many of the agreements extended over three-to-five-year time frames, $50,000 was disbursed in 2020.
Talent is crucial to economic development and was a top priority for Calgary Economic Development in 2020. Companies in all our core industrial sectors need workers with the in-demand technology skills to compete globally. To help address the issue, we focused on three specific areas: retention (keeping, or repatriating, talent from local post-secondary institutions), attraction (filling immediate talent gaps companies need to execute on business plans) and retraining, (equipping our existing talent to pivot into careers in tech).
When COVID-19 prompted governments to introduce measures to slow its spread beginning in March 2020, Calgary Economic Development, working in collaboration with Calgary’s civic partners, responded with a three-stage approach to support Calgarians and the business community – respond, rebuild, recover.
The website Connecting YYC was created to link businesses in need of talent with job seekers, particularly those immediately displaced by the pandemic. The YYC Business Marketplace was created to provide an online platform for local companies to share stories of how they are supporting their peers, the community and the economy during the pandemic.
Just prior to the implementation of travel restrictions, Mayor Naheed Nenshi led a Calgary delegation to India (New Delhi, Bangalore and Mumbai) focused on technology, talent, education, advanced manufacturing, film production and creative industries. The mission laid the groundwork for an increased focus on India for Calgary.
International Economic Development Council (IEDC)
We took home Gold, Silver and Bronze prizes in Excellence in Economic Development Awards that recognize the world’s best economic development programs and partnerships, marketing materials, and the year’s most influential leaders.
Association of Marketing and Communications Professionals
We were the recipient of four MarCom Awards, one of the most prestigious creative competitions in the world that recognizes outstanding achievement by creative professionals involved in the concept, direction, design, and production of marketing and communication materials and programs.
Team Calgary is a partnership program between Calgary Economic Development and the private sector. The program encompasses the team approach to economic development for our community as we showcase Calgary as a great place to do business and make a life.
It was a challenging year for many Calgary companies but support for Team Calgary remained strong as evidenced by the retention of more than 90 per cent of existing members and the addition of 13 new partner organizations.
The contributions and collaborations with our Team Calgary partners play a major role in helping Calgary Economic Development implement its talent attraction campaign, as well as focus on the economic strategy, Calgary in the New Economy. It is the support of our partners that allowed Calgary Economic Development to carry out our vision for Calgary in 2020 and beyond with a renewed sense of clarity and focus.