This year has taken an enormous toll on Calgarians. Our road to recovery will be long and undoubtedly bumpy at times but there are reasons for optimism about our economic future.
Our hearts first go out to anyone experiencing personal tragedy from COVID-19 and we are immensely grateful to all the healthcare and front-line workers.
In addition to a pandemic, Calgary faces three distinct challenges – a restructuring of the oil and gas sector, a devastating oil price war and supply glut, and the COVID-triggered global recession.
The impact on unemployment, GDP, and office space vacancies has been staggering.
Any discussion of our economy has to acknowledge the families trying to make ends meet, small business owners working day-and-night to keep the doors open, and companies of any size that are struggling.
Our challenges were large and complex before COVID. Now, they’re worse.
We’re experiencing more than a run-of-the-mill recession, an industry restructuring, or even a global pandemic. There is a paradigm shift under way.
The world is transforming at a scale and a speed never seen. Accepted assumptions are being challenged on everything from the economy, to the way we work, to social justice. We are also pushing the boundaries of technology daily.
It’s forcing us to shift our way of thinking.
There’s no doubt Calgary will look different in the future. There’s also no denying, we remain well positioned to grow, evolve and be the city of choice in Canada to solve the world’s biggest challenges.
City Council set a foundation for digital transformation two years ago approving the economic strategy Calgary in the New Economy. The Alberta Government’s Recovery Plan has similarly bold ambitions and aligns with our key sectors and our innovation agenda.
Digital transformation will have a profound impact on all our industries as companies embrace digitization to be more predictive, more productive and more competitive. They will be the disruptors in this world – not the disrupted.
Capital follows smart people with great ideas, and we’ve had record levels of venture capital coming into the Calgary market. The deal flow year to date is more than $200 million.
It puts us in the upper echelon of Canadian venture capital markets.
Our companies in all sectors are doing cool things with Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning, AR-VR, robotics and other technologies. This is the intersection where advanced technology meets and improves traditional industries.
Calgary and Alberta will always be a global energy centre – we have an abundance of resources. We are also a top centre for clean tech globally working to deliver lower-carbon energy to the world.
Growth is also promising in agribusiness, life sciences, aerospace, logistics, creative industries and other sectors.
We’re seeing the impact of the capital and innovative thinking in dozens of incubators and accelerators – CDL Rockies, Hunter Hub, Harvest Builders, Platform, etc. – that are supporting local entrepreneurs.
We expect the number of tech companies to least double by the end of this decade.
There is one common denominator. All our companies – tech startups, established businesses plotting their digital roadmaps, new companies we attract – will all need talent.
If we want our sectors to continue to grow and be globally competitive, talent is key. There was a 27 per cent increase in tech jobs filled in Calgary last year. And we struggle to keep pace with demand.
It is why developing, transitioning and recruiting key talent – starting with Calgarians – is a top priority for Calgary Economic Development.
As a city, we have an enviable lifestyle, low corporate taxes and office space for any type or size of business. Most important, we have smart people. People who have always shown a remarkable ability to take on challenges, adapt to the new reality, and prosper.
The bottom line is – it will be Calgarians embracing the opportunities who make the difference. We are, and always will be, a city of problem solvers.
Calgary is opportunity-rich. Not some day, today.
This opinion piece first appeared in the Calgary Herald on Oct. 23, 2020. Mary Moran is President and Chief Executive Officer, Calgary Economic Development.