Edmonton

Young, educated and growing: Group coins YEG region brand in bid to attract business

In a survey that asked 22 international companies what they knew about Edmonton, 80 per cent said they'd never heard of the city. The rest thought of it as a cold place, disconnected from the rest of Canada.

Group of 15 municipalities band together to boost capital region’s international profile

Mayor Don Iveson says Edmonton shouldn't rely on the oil and gas, including the Trans Mountain Pipeline. (Google maps)

In a survey that asked 22 international companies what they knew about Edmonton, 80 per cent said they'd never heard of the city. Those who did recognize the name thought of it as a cold place, disconnected from the rest of Canada.

Edmonton Global, a newly formed economic group composed of 15 area cities and municipalities, is launching a new campaign to change that and put the capital region on the map. 

The consortium will spread the message that the region has a desirable labour force, one that is "young, educated and growing," said Malcolm Bruce, CEO of Edmonton Global. 

The slogan is also a play on YEG, the city's airport code and moniker, he said.

"Many of you might recognize this as a play on YEG which is domestically well-known but not as well known internationally," said Bruce. 

"What we're trying to do is create this connective brand to our region."

The campaign was officially launched Thursday during an event held at NAIT.

Malcolm Bruce, who lived across Canada and internationally during his 30-year military career, is the CEO of Edmonton Global. (Nathan Gross/CBC)

Having a single message on the international stage, as opposed to competing with other municipalities, is a cost-effective strategy, said  Fort Saskatchewan Mayor Gale Katchur.

"We know that when we hunt as a pack and we work co-operatively, that we actually attract investment into our region," said Katchur, who is also the vice-chair of Edmonton Global. 

Smaller cities that are part of the partnership are also hoping to tap into economic spin-offs. 

A town like Gibbons, located about 40 kilometres northeast of Edmonton, is an affordable option for young people looking to settle down, said city councillor Amber Harris. 

"We all want economic growth, we all want new residents, we all want to grow our tax base and offer different amenities," Harris said. 

"It's a win-win if it works — and I'm confident that it will."

Edmonton Global is composed of 15 municipalities within the Edmonton Metropolitan Region. (Edmonton Global)

Part of Edmonton Global's strategy is to tap into the network of about 20,000 post-secondary students that graduate in the region every year and connecting with alumni around the globe, Bruce said.

"Alumni from various post-secondary institutions that have footprints [in a foreign country], as well as every single person within the region can be a potential ambassador."

The capital region will also promote its transportation network, which includes major highways, rail hubs and an international airport, said Parkland County Mayor Rodney Shaigec. 

"There's great opportunities to support industry and also to attract industries that need to be close to transportation," said Shaigec.

Edmonton Global has set a goal to boost the capital region's GDP by three to four per cent each year. It will measure its success every three years.  

The target is ambitious, Bruce said, but one that can be achieved by sticking to a common vision and focusing on the long-term. 

"That will fundamentally change who we are over the next 20 to 30 years," he said.

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