‘Emerge Cautiously But With Confidence’: Calgary Economic Development Looks Beyond COVID-19 – Calgary

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There is cautious optimism for 2021 from Calgary Economic Development (DEC) after a difficult 2020.

Technology and innovation will continue to be the fastest growing areas, according to DEC’s annual report on Thursday.

“As a city, we were faced with a harsh new reality; low oil prices, a drop in foreign direct investment, the biggest drop in the country’s GDP, businesses struggling to survive and our unemployment rate which has doubled in six months, ”said the President and CEO of CED, Mary Moran, in front of a virtual audience.

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“Even with all the might against us, we attracted and retained 54 companies and secured 5,500 jobs last year, said Moran, representing about half of the jobs CED attracted in 2019.

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The CEO of DEC said the ongoing vaccination during the third wave of the pandemic will ultimately be positive for the city’s future, saying it is an “exciting time to be in Calgary.”

“In fact, it feels like it’s finally our time: our time to emerge cautiously but confidently,” Moran told the virtual audience. “Our time to emerge stronger and more diverse. Our time to emerge together and with a shared vision.

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According to the report, a record $ 353 million in venture capital was invested in the city in 2020, double the amount in 2019.

Sixteen trade deals were also reached in 2020, a record for the economic development agency since launching its trade accelerator program.

The value of film and television productions fell by more than half in 2020 due to the pandemic.

But the CED report says Calgary was one of the first North American cities to restart production with public health measures, and the province still saw $ 90 million in production last year, supporting 1,649 direct jobs in 78 productions.


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The Opportunity Calgary Investment Fund (OCIF), a $ 100 million business investment fund established by Calgary City Council in 2018, has committed $ 43 million for 14 projects since its inception. DEC said $ 636 million from OCIF, private funds and other government funds were invested in the economy – an investment result of 15 to 1.

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OCIF funds are limited by milestones and “with COVID-19, and many agreements extended over periods of three to five years, $ 50,000 was disbursed in 2020,” the report said.

SAIT’s Talent Hub DX (digital transformation) was OCIF’s primary benefactor in 2020, and funds supported work done by the Life Sciences Innovation Hub at the University of Calgary.

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Despite a year marked by an increase in mergers and acquisitions in the province’s energy industry, Moran noted that more “non-traditional” players have taken advantage of digital technologies to become leaders in areas such as ESG. , low-carbon fossil fuels, and carbon capture and storage.

“This indicates the evolving energy future of Calgary’s undeniable – undeniable – opportunity to become the center of global climate action and clean technology. “

In a pre-recorded message, Premier Jason Kenney said 2020 was a banner year for new businesses and companies in the province. He also highlighted projections from major banks and think tanks that Alberta would lead the country in terms of economic growth and jobs.

“I believe 2021 will truly be Calgary’s year,” said the Premier.

COVID supports businesses

Since the start of the pandemic, DEC has implemented a three-pronged strategy to support businesses, including connecting businesses to health and financial assistance, supporting reopening efforts and moving towards long-term strategy.Calgary in the new economy. “

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“Calgarians are undeniably problem solvers,” said Moran.

“And as the strategy says, the smart people of this city are applying innovation and technology to solve some of the world’s biggest challenges – cleaner energy, safe and secure food, improved transportation of people and goods. and better health solutions. “


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Mayor Naheed Nenshi, speaking during CED’s final report to the community as mayor, said the city council has done what it can to help businesses in the city, through mechanisms such as the ‘reduction of fees and taxes and deferrals.

“One of the things we learned is that if businesses close during a crisis, 40% of them never reopen again,” Nenshi said. “And we had to make sure that didn’t happen.

“It didn’t happen after the flooding, and we had to make sure that didn’t happen this time around either.”

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The downtown blues

Addressing vacant positions downtown is an issue Moran and CED are actively working on, with Calgary’s Greater Downtown Plan having been approved by a city committee a week ago.

Nenshi said the plan would be presented to council “with sizeable financial demand” on April 26.

“This is really important because rebuilding the heart of our city will help us, in a cold way, to solve some of our structural tax problems,” Nenshi said. “But in a much more important and thoughtful way, it will help us bring back that dynamism that attracts and retains this great talent.”

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When questioned by reporters, Moran declined to share details.

“Demand will be healthy demand, but it will also experience a healthy return.”

Moran was not disturbed by the delays in the construction of the green line and the event center, saying it was “long games”.

“These are improvements to the downtown strategy, so we want to see them made,” Moran said.

“We believe that the opportunity to develop tourism, especially with investments in the arena, is quite critical.

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“The province has the ambitious goal of doubling tourism to what it is today, so you can’t do it without investing in infrastructure, including the arena or downtown.

Moran said downtown development is “a place for government to play to spur that investment and spur that change,” saying other levels of government can be “catalysts.”

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The CED president said Calgary’s GDP in 2021 is expected to beat 2014 figures and even with record unemployment during the pandemic, more people are working today than in the past.

“We just have to adjust our expectations of what a healthy economy looks like, and we have to adjust our expectations to know that it just isn’t going to come back like it did in the past in the sense that the energy isn’t coming back. the mega job creator and occupant of office space that he has been in the past, ”she said.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.


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