Calgary: Charting a New Path to Economic Diversification

Calgary’s economy has dramatically changed over the last five years. While energy continues to be the backbone of Alberta’s largest city, an ambitious strategy has been created to capitalize on the city’s strengths and transform the local economy over the next 10 years.

In June 2018, Calgary’s city council unanimously approved the new economic strategy, Calgary in the New Economy. The 10-year plan aims to make Canada’s third largest municipality the city of choice in Canada for entrepreneurs.

“Transformative times require bold actions,” says Steve Allan, executive chair of Calgary Economic Development. “We need to continue to tap into Calgary’s ‘can-do’ attitude, with passion and energy to go after and make the most out of opportunities for our city.”

Calgary by the Numbers

• Incorporated as a City: 
 January 1, 1894
• Current Mayor: Naheed Nenshi
• Population (2016): 1,239,220
• Population Change 
 2011-2016: 13%
• Land Area: 826 sq. km
• Major Project Investment: 
 $22.7 billion
• Annual GDP per Capita 
 (2017): $80,811
• Median Household Income: 
Sources: Statistics Canada, 
Calgary Economic Development

And tapping into Calgary’s people – or Calgarians – is one of the strategy’s focus areas. Calgary is one of Canada’s youngest cities with a median age of 36.8 and consistently posts one of the highest levels of economic output per person in Canada – approximately $73,000 in 2017. With seven post-secondary institutions and 27 percent of degree completions in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) programs, it makes sense that building on this talent and focusing on innovation in the business-to-business sector is another focus of the strategy.

In addition to talent and innovation, the other two focus areas of the strategy are business environment and place. Place seems to have already taken care of itself as Calgary was ranked as the fifth most livable city in the world by The Economist Intelligence Unit every year from 2008 to 2017, and in 2018 jumped up one spot to fourth overall, making Calgary the most livable city in North America.

If Calgary in the New Economy – with its four focus areas, 13 key initiatives and 45 actions – goes according to plan, the city might just achieve its vision of being the most entrepreneurial too.