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Abstract painting of Calgary's downtown cityscape

Calgary’s moniker “Be Part Of The Energy” could just as easily be “Keep Calgary Cool!” given all of the fun, funky, quirky things made in the city.  Here are just a few:

Canada's new tech-corridor

One of the coolest things made in Calgary are high-tech monitoring consoles for airports, 911 centres, military operations, refineries and other 24/7 enterprises requiring continuous monitoring, controlling, recording and retrieval of data.  Evans Consoles have designed, manufactured and installed over 11,O00 consoles around the world for the likes of NASA, Boeing, Microsoft, AT&T and Lucent Technologies. Perhaps the coolest visually are the consoles they design for the movie Jurassic World which featured 22 Evans Consoles stations in their high-tech control room scenes.  Or maybe it is the consoles designed for NASA and seen by millions while watching the Mars Rover landing.

RKVisuals creates some of the coolest life-like 3D computer renderings videos of mega billion dollar urban development projects anywhere. From their studio at Riddell Kurcazaba Architecture in Calgary’s tony Currie Barracks (a redevelopment of an early 20th century Canadian Armed Forces bases), they produced videos of complex projects before they are even built using the same 3d animation software as Pixar Studios. The Quarry Park video documents the transformation of a old gravel pit to a trendy urban village of offices, homes and shops, the SAGD video explains how Steam Assisted Gravity Drainage works in Alberta’s oil sands and their West LRT animation is a visualization of a 8.2 km new LRT extension including Calgary’s first underground station. Back Story: The LRT video was used as a key community engagement tool - after seeing the video at public open houses, people quickly said, “Now I get it and came onside.” Another 3D animation of an underpass resulted in Calgary’s City Council approving $70 million dollars for the project after just 15 minutes of debate.

Ladacor’s “Advanced Modular System” a proprietary modular construction method using heavy steel shipping containers could change the way buildings are constructed in Canada and beyond.  Already they have designed and built the largest North American container hotel in Sioux Lookout, Ontario.  Using decommissioned containers, Ladacor reconfigures them into massive Lego-like pieces that are then shipped to the site for assembly into buildings up to about 12 floors.  Ladacor’s system is ideally suited to condo construction as they are “cheaper, faster and better” than wood or concrete framed buildings.

In 2013, Orpyx Technologies won the TEC Venture Prize FastGrowth Award for their wireless shoe insert called SurroSense RX (how cool a name is that). This high tech insert has the potential to help of 20+ millions diabetics in North America alone manage peripheral nerve damage and prevent amputations that often stems from foot ulcers.  Dr. Breanne Everett, Orpyx’s CEO at the age of 28 took the SurroSense RX idea from concept to prototype in just two years, using private placement funding versus the normal research grant approach, which was too slow for her.   Everett has already become a leader in fostering a culture of innovation in the healthcare system in Alberta and beyond with her TEDxYYC video.

Authentically Sweet

Who doesn’t think candies and chocolates are cool?  Olivier’s Candies is one of the oldest continuously operated business in Canada, starting with bake shop in 1909 known as “The Geisha” in downtown Calgary.   Today Olivier’s modern operation employs the latest technology, yet their candy canes are still made by hand and they are still using the original recipes for peanut brittle and caramels.  Calgary is also home to several hand-made chocolatiers including Bernard Callebaut, Coppeneur Chocolate, Epiphanie Chocolate and Papa Chocolat (now Master Chocolat) who were all included in “Best chocolate shops in Canada” published by Huffington Post in 2013.

Calgary’s Young & Restless

Camp Brand Goods (CBG) was born out of Connor Gould’s love of graphic design, outdoor activities and vintage mountaineer culture and his wife Leslie’s passion for the outdoors and social media. It all started with the “Happy Camper Sweater” collection in 2011, featuring the phrase “Happy Camper” on sweatshirts, hoodies and t-shirts, which was picked up by a variety of Canadian fashion blogs. In 2014, Without Walls an American retailer picked up their vintage looking outdoor-wear clothing, as well as some local boutique shops.  In 2015 they opened their flagship store The Livery Shop (in a historic barn in Calgary’s trendy Inglewood community, named Canada’s Best Neighbourhood, in 2014, by the Canadian Institute of Planners).  Today CBG offers a wide selection of ultra comfy men and women’s clothing all featuring Connor’s vintage inspired graphics and phrases. 

Kitchen parties take on a whole different dimension in Calgary, compared to the Maritimes.  Rather than forming a new band or creating a new song, a Calgary kitchen party is more likely to foster a new business, which is exactly what happened when sisters-in-laws Pippa and Neige Blair (still in their 20s) got together four years ago.  Starting in their kitchen with an investment of $250 they have created a thriving natural cream deodorant business called Routine, now housed in a 20,000 square foot plant.  What began as a single product has evolved into 12 scents and three formulae (Vegan Clay, Beeswax only and Clay & Beeswax). Routine’s natural deodorant is now is sold in 35 locations in Calgary, as well as in outlets from Saltspring Island to Prince Edward Island and their on-line store fills orders from across the world. 

These young entrepreneurs embody Calgary’s cool, creative culture – be it the arts or the sciences. But this is not new, David Parker, long time Calgary Herald Business columnist thinks “there is still a pioneering mentality in Calgary, people are excited by something new, there is a willingness to give it a try and take a risk.  Calgarians are not afraid to make decision and move forward.”


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