While Calgary has weathered the worst effects of the recent recession and is finally back on the wat up, the city continues to contend with a large supply of empty offices and severe unemployment.
“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,” Calgary Economic Development president and CEO Mary Moran told CBC News.
“We still have 13 million square-feet of office space available, and we still have the highest unemployment in the country.”
Moran noted that not even the resurgent energy sector can help maximize this unused space, instead suggesting that Calgary take notes from Toronto and strongly encourage innovation firms to set up shop.
“[Energy companies] 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,” Moran explained.
“We have a favourable immigration policy so we can continue to attract really smart people from around the world,” the executive added. “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.”
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Institutions like the University of Calgary, Bow Valley College, and SAIT have already taken concrete steps to help energy sector professionals make the most out of these coming changes.
“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 start-ups working more closely together to solve these problems.”
“We have a highly educated population that is tech-focused around the industrial sectors,” Moran concluded. “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.”
“Now we need to bring start-ups and small and medium enterprise companies into the downtown core so everybody can work together.”
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