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Person taking a picture of downtown Calgary's cityscape from Scotsman Hill

As we enter a new decade, in the midst of the transformation to an increasingly digital economy, it is an opportunity to take stock of where we are as a city and where we are going. 

The economic headwinds Calgary has confronted in the last five years are well-documented. Less evident is the momentum that emerged in 2019 around implementation of Calgary in the New Economy and how the strategy created by Calgarians for Calgarians is setting a foundation for sustained prosperity.

The vision is to be the city of choice in Canada for the best entrepreneurs to solve some of the world’s biggest challenges – cleaner energy, safe and secure food, more efficient transportation and better health solutions. The opportunity for Calgary is to lead the digital transformation of Canada’s industrial sectors.

Calgary in the New Economy was the common thread connecting numerous announcements by business, governments and post-secondary institutions in 2019 that set a course to future-proof our city and our economy.

One major announcement came in early December when a $30-million gift from philanthropist David Bissett allowed Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT) to establish a new school and programs focused on advanced digital technology.

“This significant contribution will enable SAIT to support our students and our industry partners, to develop the mindset, adaptability and knowledge to use and create technology to drive us forward,” said SAIT President and CEO Dr. David Ross. “It’s going help us accelerate industry and our economy.” 

Dr. Ross is a member of the Board of Directors for Calgary Economic Development and a member of the CEO Roundtable for the Economic Strategy. SAIT’s school advanced digital technology will supports two of the areas of focus for Calgary in the New Economy – Innovation and Talent. 

There was significant momentum in the first full year of implementation of the strategy launched in October 2018.

A study from Calgary Economic Development revealed companies in this city will lead the $18.4 billion spend on digital transformation in Alberta through 2022. There were headlines for Suncor Energy and Cenovus Energy entering into agreements with Microsoft & IBM respectively but the spend is across all sectors.

The emergence of the Clean Resources Innovation Network as a catalyst for pursuit of zero-emission energy, the opening of the Life Sciences Innovation Hub at UCalgary and Platform breaking ground in East Village as a place for enterprise companies to meet entrepreneurs and start-ups were also major milestones. 

City Council also approved moving forward with expansion of the BMO Centre and a new Event Centre in The Rivers Culture and Entertainment District.

Onex Corp.’s purchase of WestJet Airlines and commitment to keep its headquarters here along with making Calgary a major hub was encouraging. Also, local success stories Solium Capital and Parvus Therapeutics attracted $1 billion deals in fintech and life sciences, while our growing cluster of crop science innovation expanded with global leaders BASF and Bayer joining Nutrien.  

Calgary in the New Economy has momentum, but we still have a long way to go. This isn’t a change; it’s an economic transformation. The decade ahead will present many opportunities and to take advantage, Calgarians need to work together, speak with one voice, and build on the economic foundation now in place.

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