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Calgary Economic Development shows strong growth, has eyes on the future

Calgary Economic Development’s Report to the Community shows that the city partner fared well last year while keeping a close eye on what’s ahead.

The annual Report to the Community, held at the Telus Convention Centre with nearly 1,500 in attendance, showed substantial growth and momentum for the city, with a few caution signs on the horizon.

The CED report highlighted their work with 68 companies across various industries being attracted, retained or expanded, more than 10,000 people employed and the absorption of 154,000 square feet of downtown space, and 2.5 million square feet of commercial and industrial space taken overall.

Venture capital growth in Calgary also broke records. More than $647 million, accounted for in 64 deals, represented roughly 89 per cent of all Alberta investment.

Brad Parry, President and CEO of Calgary Economic Development, noted the numbers in the report show solid success. While he said he’s an eternal optimist, and believes that the city’s turned an economic corner, we’re not completely out of the woods yet.

“It’s not going to be a straight line. It’ll be a little bumpy. I think we’re getting there,” he told LiveWire Calgary.

“We’re seeing the diversification start to take hold beyond just that six-month cycle, the one-year cycle. We’re starting to see some people entrenching themselves in the community.”

Of course, film and television production were a massive boon to the local economy. The ongoing production of the TV series Fargo, the massive success of The Last of Us and the addition of Fraggle Rock set the stage for ongoing success.

There were 1,100 film permits in the City of Calgary and area last year and productions accounted for more than 5,000 jobs.

But that’s last year’s news, he said.

Calgary’s foundation can move the city forward

While he believes the city had a great year moving the economy forward, the real key is the future, Parry said.

“I think what’s important is as much as we’re talking about what we did last year, I think it’s also important for us to think about what’s coming down the pike in the future, where’s our city going to be set up for that success long term,” he said.

Calgary likes to talk about the success of tech, along with film and television as signs of increased diversification. Parry said there’s more than that. Several industries are flying under the radar.

Parry said there’s ongoing work in quantum computing, the aerospace industry and even agriculture and life sciences.

“I think if you look at what’s happening in the agricultural sector, the innovation that’s happening, the fact that we are really going to be at the forefront of food security change,” he said.  

“I think that to me is one thing that I’m really excited about.”

He also said the merger of CP Rail with Kansas City Southern makes Calgary a transportation logistics powerhouse.

Barriers to watch for

Parry said they may see a bit of a reduction in the amount of commercial and industrial space taken up in 2023. They oversaw a lot of big projects that popped up that two million square feet number.

“Otherwise, I think overall, actually, the team delivered against all the mandates that we had given all the things they’re actually trying to accomplish right now,” he said.

They also want to keep their eye on what post-secondary schools are doing. They need to be on the ball with the kind of programming that’s needed to ensure the labour force is available for continued growth.

Parry also said that continued work on Calgary’s downtown will be a pivotal driver of economic growth. A vibrant downtown helps attract companies from all over the world, he said.

“The idea of us being able to do conversions and having different kinds of housing for people is so crucial as we attract that talent from different global centers,” he said.

“So, that and having amenities. It’s not just about attracting businesses. It’s about having a vibrant downtown for our community to enjoy as well.”

The Report to the Community is delivered annually. This is the first in-person Report to the Community in four years.

CED 2023 Highlights2022 by Darren Krause