Calgary deemed highly competitive compared to peer cities around world

Calgary’s slumping economy could eventually help it emerge as a centre of innovation, according to a new study that measures how the city stacks up against 10 other cities from around the world.

Calgary Economic Development study outlines opportunities, challenges ahead as city diversifies

Calgary Economic Development says even amid the current economic downturn, the city's competitiveness compares favourably with 10 peer cities around the world. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)

Calgary's slumping economy could eventually help it emerge as a centre of innovation, according to a new study. 

Calgary Economic Development teamed up with Monitor Deloitte to see how the city stacks up against 10 other cities from around the world in terms of competitiveness.

The study, Benchmarking Calgary's Competitiveness, concluded the city could become a much more important transportation and logistics centre in Western Canada, says Mary Moran, CEO of Calgary Economic Development.

"There's an opportunity for us to emerge as innovation leader in Canada," she said.

"There are great examples of places around the world that are embracing innovations, in the U.S., places like Copenhagen, Israel, that have done a great job of this. We need to look to those centres to say, 'How do we emerge as an innovation centre?' Because people don't think of us an innovator but there is innovation happening here."

The CED study says cheaper office space in the wake of the economic downturn can be turned to the city's advantage because it will entice more companies to set up shop in Calgary.

The report compared Calgary with 10 other cities with industry strengths similar to the Alberta city's:

  • Houston.
  • Pittsburgh.
  • Brisbane.
  • Rio de Janeiro.
  • Vancouver.
  • Singapore.
  • Chicago.
  • Atlanta.
  • Aberdeen.
  • Rotterdam.

Calgary's workforce most educated

Calgary ranked first in terms of education, with 34.8 per cent holding at least a bachelor's degree. Vancouver was second at 34.1 per cent and Houston was third at 30.9 per cent.

"Studies indicate that education results in improved labour productivity and accelerates technological advancements," CED said in a release. 

Calgary also has the highest labour participation rate among its peers, with 75.2 per cent of working-age people currently employed. Singapore's rate is 68 per cent and Vancouver's rate is 64.9 per cent.

Calgary is in third place among the other cities in spending on research on development, at $826 per capita. In Singapore, the figure is $1,389.

Calgary also ranked third in percentage of immigrants in its population.

"Diversity provides a world of experience and generates ideas, creativity and fosters innovation," the report said.

The report found that Calgary ranks around the middle of the pack in other areas, including commercial real estate rent, commercial property tax, corporate tax, single worker income, housing affordability, and crime and health care.

The city's score dropped when it came to the number of buildings that meet LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) standards and some other measures.

"Calgary is among the poorest in the peer group with respect to number of LEED buildings and number of international flights," CED said. 

There are opportunities for Calgary to become a regional film and creative industry hub. And the low Canadian dollar should boost the city's tourism industry in the years ahead, the report said.

"The study draws on 2014 and 2015 data and, while metrics such as GDP and population growth have changed significantly in the past year, we remain a city with a talented, diverse and creative workforce, which are the key ingredients to advance diversification and innovation," Calgary Economic Development said in a release.

Read the report here. 


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