Calgary’s New Economic Strategy Shifts Focus to Entrepreneurship, Innovation

Calgary is looking to build on its CFIB ranking as one of the best places in Canada to do business.

The city unveiled “Building On Our Energy,” an economic strategy that is an update to the 2008 plan, last Thursday at a luncheon hosted by Calgary Economic Development. Calgary, which is home to the most small businesses per capita in Canada, has named “Entrepreneurial Energy” and “Innovative Energy” as two of its areas of focus for the new economic strategy.

“I think this is the first time in the city’s history that the economic strategy embedded entrepreneurship and innovation as deeply as we have this time around,” said Peter Garrett, the president of Innovate Calgary. “It’s official recognition of the importance of entrepreneurship to our economy here.”

The new economic strategy not only identifies plans on how to foster entrepreneurship and innovation, but also actions how the city can go back and measure at a future date.

Although the CFIB had recognized the city as a great place to do business, they also found that Calgary was lacking in plans to support small business. Calgary aims to help grow businesses outside the energy sector in an effort to diversify. They are also working to have processes in place to help support business growth. The full entrepreneurial strategy can be found here.

The strategy recognizes Calgary’s emerging startup community and aims to further develop the sector. One plan is to leverage the city’s energy industry strength to attract startups to Calgary. The other plan is to foster a culture of innovation and support social entrepreneurship. The full innovation strategy is available here.

Calgary Economic Development shared the plan at the luncheon which featured two of Canada’s foremost economists to share their economic forecasts. Glen Hodgson, Senior Vice President of The Conference Board of Canada, talked about the global and North American economic outlook. ATB Financial’s Chief Economist Todd Hirsch talked about Calgary and Alberta. Hirsch mentioned that there would be a bit of a slowdown in Alberta, but that it isn’t out of the ordinary – and it could be a good thing for the Alberta startup community.

“Startups and entrepreneurialism – this is something that actually gets a bit of a boost when there is a bit of a slowdown,” Hirsch said, adding that startups become an alternative to those squeezed out of a tightening labour market.

“I think there’s a shift in culture today as well,” said Garrett. “There’s a lot of young people today who don’t want to work for the large companies. They want to work for the small enterprise. Technology is enabling that. Today, two young computer science grads with laptops can start a business with very little capital, whereas 10, 15, 20 years ago, that just wasn’t possible.”