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National, international perception of Calgary continues improvement: CED survey

A change in how they told Calgary's story behind across the board gains, CEO Parry said.

Perception of Calgary among business leaders and professionals has improved in several key areas, according to the findings from a Stone-Olafson survey for Calgary Economic Development (CED).

The survey was done in October 2022, and asked questions of 1,875 business leaders and key sector workers in 10 markets across Canada, the UK and the United States. 

Overall, 90 per cent of business leaders had a favourable view of Calgary, up one per cent from prior perception surveys.  Survey numbers also increase an average of 6.25 per cent from 2021 in the perception that Calgary’s becoming a tech hub (74 per cent), that we have a diverse economy (76 per cent), companies would consider expansion to Calgary (55 per cent) and that there’s more than just oil and gas here (80 per cent).

Brad Parry, CEO of CED said previously they’ve had a very conservative approach to how they told Calgary’s story. That changed a little over two years ago, he said. It’s been a slow and steady approach that’s built up since then.

“We really retrenched ourselves back in 2020 to start telling the Calgary story from the Calgary perspective,” he said.

“I think owning that narrative has really helped shape the kind of perceptions that people have about us now.”

Among tech and key sector workers, the number that jumps out is the increase in the number of people surveyed that would consider a move to Calgary. That increased 12 per cent (44 per cent to 56 per cent) from 2021.

Further, in a new survey question, 61 per cent of respondents said that Calgary is a diverse and inclusive city.

Workers realizing opportunity in Calgary, Parry said

Previously, workers across North America or the UK may not have seen an opportunity to grow and thrive here in Calgary. Parry believes that’s changed and is reflected in the survey results.

Seventy-two per cent of worker respondents have a favourable impression of Calgary – up three per cent. Fifty-seven per cent (up four per cent) believe there are a variety of career options in the city.

Parry said the data he saw when he took on the job back in 2019/2020 showed that workers abroad were reluctant to come to Calgary. That’s where telling the city’s story came in, he said.

“We really had to refocus and tell the story about the great Calgary companies and all those amazing opportunities,” he said.

“We talked about quality of life – we’re always going to win a quality life. It’s an amazing place to live. It’s an amazing place to grow up – but people didn’t have enough of an understanding of the other kinds of industries we have here, the fintech, the life sciences, the agtech stuff that’s going on.”

Still, Parry said there’s work to do.

There’s a need for senior-level talent across sectors. Parry said more people need to know that Calgary’s a great place to have a career, but also build a life.

“That’s definitely an area we have to work on,” he said.

He said the biggest takeaway of the survey is the improvement across the board from a talent standpoint. It’s one of the main hurdles in moving Calgary’s economy forward.

“I’m so thrilled to see that (we’ve) finally cracked that code and started to see us make those inroads,” he said.

“If we’re going to sustain the growth that we have, we need talent to realize Calgary as a place where they can build a career and a life.”