'Innovation ecosystem' key in Calgary Economic Development 10-year strategy

Calgary Economic Development says innovation is key for the city to fully move beyond its recent economic challenges, which have left high unemployment and lots and lots of empty offices.

Energy sector won't be big job creator it has been in the past, Mary Moran says

In its new strategy paper, Calgary Economic Development argues the recession may be behind us but the economy is now at a crossroads, says CEO Mary Moran. (CBC)

Calgary Economic Development says innovation is key for the city to fully move beyond its recent economic challenges, which include unemployment and lots and lots of empty offices.

"Although we have had strong GDP growth last year, and modest GDP growth predicted for the next couple of years, we still have some big economic issues," the group's president and CEO Mary Moran told The Homestretch on Thursday.

"We still have 13 million square-feet of office space available, and we still have the highest unemployment in the country."

In Building on our Energy, the 10-year Economic Strategy for Calgary, the group argues the recession may be behind us but the economy is now at a crossroads.

As for the high downtown office vacancy rate, Moran says don't hold your breath that energy companies will come to the rescue.

"They are operating at a much more efficient and effective rate so they are not going to add people and absorb office space like they have in the past. They are going to be cautious. We don't see them as the big job creators that they have been in the past," she said.

An innovation ecosystem added to our industrial sector is the way to go, Moran says.

The recession may be behind us but our economy is at a crossroads. That's according to a new economic strategy laid out by the Calgary Economic Development Authority. It's sets out a 10-year economic plan for our city. Mary Moran is the president and CEO of the Calgary Economic Development Authority. 6:16

"Calgary and Canada are really well set up," she said.

"We have a favourable immigration policy so we can continue to attract really smart people from around the world. We need to make sure we have an educational and post-secondary pipeline that is wider than it's historically been in producing people with those skill sets, particularly around software engineers, data scientists, coders and programmers."

Post-secondaries are stepping up

The University of Calgary, Bow Valley College and SAIT are among institutions that have added courses to help people in the energy sector pivot their careers.

"The height of the next economic wave for Calgary is going to be dependent on how our industrial sectors embrace those technologies. It's about building on our economy, embracing technologies and getting corporates and startups working more closely together to solve these problems."

And Calgary, in particular, is well positioned for this shift, she said.

"We have a highly educated population that is tech-focused around the industrial sectors," Moran said.

"We have a competitive advantage. We have head offices, we know the industrial sectors, we have a whole bunch of unlocked capital that can invest in these technologies that will help us be more competitive globally — and we have this great infrastructure in the downtown core, where we have a lot of corporate companies," she said. 

"Now we need to bring startups and small and medium enterprise companies into the downtown core so everybody can work together."


With files from The Homestretch