Calgary

Is Calgary losing its status as a hub for office HQs? Depends on what numbers you look at

The number of employees working in head offices in Calgary has dropped, as has the number of headquarters that call Calgary home.

Number of employees working in head offices has dropped, but it's still a centre for high-revenue companies

Statistics Canada says Calgary has lost head offices and employees in those offices through the economic downturn, but Calgary Economic Development says how the city measures up depends on what numbers you use. (Devin Heroux/CBC)

The number of employees working in head offices in Calgary has dropped, as has the number of headquarters that call Calgary home.

But Calgary Economic Development says the city is still punching above its weight as a centre for corporate power.

We've lost a lot of really, really good, high paying, high quality jobs.- Todd Hirsch, ATB Financial

The number of head office workers in Calgary dropped nearly 8 per cent from 31,572 to 29,068 between 2012 and 2017, while employment in Alberta rose by 2.8 per cent in the same period, according to Statistics Canada numbers released Wednesday.

And, the number of head offices dropped slightly from 222 to 213, while it rose in other cities.

"It really is directly related to the energy downturn in 2015," said Todd Hirsch, chief economist with ATB Financial. "We've lost a lot of really, really good, high paying, high quality jobs."

Can't see the chart below? Click here.

Hirsch said some of the losses of head offices are due to mergers, but some have also closed. He said where Calgary really has an opportunity to bounce back is when it comes to sectors outside of oil and gas that could be drawn in by Calgary's office vacancies and lower prices.

"We might even start to see some of those tech companies move, perhaps from Vancouver to Calgary, simply because it's easier to attract workers to Calgary where they can actually afford to live," he said. "So I'm not expecting the head offices of energy companies to be the growth anymore, but there are sectors outside of oil and gas."

Calgary still a centre for big companies

Court Ellingson of Calgary Economic Development said that while the Statistics Canada ranking looks bleak — Calgary dropped from having the second-highest number of head offices in the country to fourth, behind Vancouver and Montreal, it still has the second-highest number of headquarters that belong to the country's largest companies.

Calgary has 115 head offices listed on the Financial Post 500 ranking, behind Toronto's 276.

Can't see the chart below? Click here.

And, it has the second-highest number of head offices per capita. 

"There's a whole host of benefits that come from having large companies, large headquarters in your city and so that's why when we talk to the world, we talk about those larger headquarters that are located here in Calgary," he said. 

Ellingson said the number of big companies headquartered in Calgary peaked in 2015.

Can't see the chart below? Click here.

About the Author

Sarah Rieger

Reporter

Sarah Rieger joined CBC Calgary as an online journalist in 2017. You can reach her by email at sarah.rieger@cbc.ca.

With files from Scott Dippel

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