Let’s face it: Calgary has seen some rough years lately.
However, difficult times don’t last forever and I’m certain Calgary will rebound. Don’t believe me? Well, here’s everything you need to know about how the city ended up in its current predicament and why it’s going to come back in full force over the next few years.
Why Calgary Is Struggling
It’s no secret that the city of Calgary and its residents are struggling financially. The city is currently experiencing a severe downturn, mostly because of the big oil boom that happened between 2004 and 2014.
During the boom times, there were tens of thousands of new jobs created because companies were quickly building dozens of new heavy oil facilities in the tar sands. However this boom was destined from the beginning to slow down because many more workers are required to build these facilities than are necessary to actually operate them.
In reality, the only way to sustain the level of oil industry jobs that we had between 2004 and 2014 is to have a continuous stream of new heavy oil facilities under construction. This was never the plan, and making it worse, heavy oil is a high cost source of oil, which isn’t exactly popular right now.
Thanks to a general decline in both the feasibility of oil as an investment strategy and the growth of more affordable renewable energy sources, the fossil fuels industry just doesn’t have the capital on hand to sustain their old levels of construction. Plus, the environmental impact of heavy oil and the lack of regional pipeline capacity to transport this oil to refineries means that the entire industry is less attractive to investors.
At the end of the day, all of this means that Calgary is likely to continue in its current downward economic trend – at least in the oil and gas industry. Since oil and gas are such a dominant part of Alberta’s economy, though, with a 27.9% share of the province’s GDP in 2016, this downturn will have a huge impact on employment prospects in the city. Even worse, this downturn will eventually affect other parts of the economy if people aren’t able to find alternative employment.
Is Calgary The Next Cleveland?
No. Calgary doesn’t have to be “finished” and relegated to the ranks of forgotten cities like many of those in the Midwestern US Rust Belt, such as Cleveland.
In reality, there are plenty of reasons why Calgary can and will rebound. However, while Calgary and Cleveland both had significant downturns in their primary industries that precipitated their economic struggles, the cities are very different. So, we shouldn’t expect Calgary’s path to be the same as Cleveland’s moving forward.
In fact, there are plenty of reasons why Calgary is well poised to be on the up and up in the near future.
Why Calgary Will Recover
Although Calgary is struggling a bit right now, it will recover. Here are the four major reasons why the city is on the verge of a major rebound:
Calgary Is A Great Place To Live
First and foremost, Calgary is a fantastic place to live. As somebody who has left and lived on two other continents, I recognize that Calgary is a top-tier city to live, especially if you have a family.
But don’t take my word for it, check out major news sources from around the world. In fact, The Economist listed Calgary as the fifth most livable city in the world and others argue that it’s the number one most livable city in North America.
Sure, like every city, Calgary has its problems. But, it’s in a country that’s relatively well run and offers plenty of great benefits and protections for its citizens. As a country, Canada has a solid education system, good health care, low crime rates, a stable government, a great quality of life, plenty of open space, and friendly people. Canada also has an immigration policy that encourages talented and experienced people from around the world to come to the country and contribute to its economy.
Why does it matter that Calgary is a great place to live? Well, people want to live in great places, and more and more people will choose to move to Calgary in the coming years, helping to drive long-term population growth.
In my mind, Calgary is a bit like Denver, which attracts people from all over the US and the world with its fantastic quality of life, especially for outdoor-lovers. Denver’s great mix of proximity to recreation opportunities and its status as an up-and-coming metropolis should be a role model for Calgary moving forward.
Calgary Is A Small City With All The Benefits Of A Big City
Awhile back, I was watching an interview with a Swedish hockey player on the Calgary Flames hockey club. Although he wasn’t a native Calgarian, his view of the city was one of the best I’ve ever heard.
During the interview, he said that Calgary has all the benefits of a big city, but it’s also a small city. What exactly does this mean, you might ask?
Well, ever since I moved back to Calgary in 2004, I’ve noticed how much the city has changed. When I first arrived, the city had plenty of restaurants and bars, but it all had a small prairie town vibe. Everyone was friendly, but it wasn’t exactly diverse.
Over the course of the last fifteen years, though, things have changed, and in a good way. Tens of thousands of people from all over the country and the world have since moved to Calgary, bringing with them new ideas and starting new businesses.
Thanks to this influx of talent, Calgary is a burgeoning global city with plenty of opportunities for economic growth. At the same time, while Calgary has all the perks of being a big city, it’s still managed to retain all the great benefits that you’d typically find in a smaller city. In Calgary, the traffic isn’t too bad, there’s plenty of room for everyone to live, and there’s a whole lot of public space.
All of this means that Calgary is big enough to have a great city atmosphere but it’s still a fantastic place to grow a family. So, it’s going to attract skilled professionals at many different stages in their careers who will all contribute to growing the city’s economy.
Calgary Is All About The Outdoors
I’ve lived in Calgary for quite a while and I’m always amazed when I meet fellow Calgarians that aren’t big outdoor lovers. In my opinion, Calgary is one of the best cities in the world if you love the outdoors.
While most Canadians will picture Vancouver if you ask them about a great place to live if you want to spend a lot of time outside, few people realize just how many recreation opportunities there are within Calgary.
In fact, there’s over 1000km of walking, hiking, and cycling pathways inside Calgary’s city limits. You can cycle in Fish Creek Park on a great network of paved, car-free paths that are just incredible. There’s actually over 100km of bike paths in the city that are completely car-free.
Plus, there are plenty of large parks with great hiking opportunities, such as Glenmore Reservoir, Nose Hill, Fish Creek, and Sandy Beach. There are also two great rivers – the Bow and the Elbow – that have awesome riverside walking paths.
If you wanted to go a bit further afield, Calgary is actually only 60 minutes from some of the most spectacular mountains on Earth in the Canadian Rockies. People travel from all over the world to visit Banff, Lake Louise, and Kananaskis but so many Calgarians don’t realize that these outdoor jewels are right in their backyard!
Even when compared to a city like Vancouver, Calgary is teeming with outdoor opportunities. Jasper, Yoho, Banff, Kootenay, and Waterton Lakes National Parks are all within a couple of hours. These world-class National Parks offer some of the best hiking, backpacking, cycling, and skiing opportunities on Earth. That’s not even counting the interior of BC, which is just 3 hours away, or all the provincial and municipal parks we have nearby.
All around the world, people are flocking to places where they can live by the mountains or by the sea. Although it can’t exactly offer a seaside escape, Calgary’s proximity to the mountains makes it well situated to attract outdoor lovers, especially since the city has such a low cost of living. If Calgary marketed itself more toward the outdoors, the city would certainly bring some top talent to the area.
Calgary Is A Great Place To Build A Company
As an entrepreneur, I chose to build my company in Calgary. Yep, that’s right, I chose Calgary – not Vancouver, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal or anywhere else, for that matter.
Why did I choose Calgary?
Well, the answer is quite simple: Calgary has everything that you need to build a successful business.
First and foremost, Calgary has a highly-skilled population. It’s home to plenty of people that have lots of training and experience in working for growing companies. The city also has great universities that produce thousands of talented new graduates every year, which means this talented workforce is only going to grow over the next few decades.
Plus, the city has the infrastructure you need to build a company. It has great public transportation, a solid road network, and good cycling paths that allow people to commute by bike. Calgary also has a vibrant downtown area to attract young talent and good internet connectivity to support a business’s technological needs. The local universities also produce top talent, ready for the workforce.
Even better for businesses: Calgary has some pretty low taxes. This low corporate tax rate is a great way to draw companies to the city that might otherwise have looked to other major metropolises in Canada. If you can have all the benefits of running a business in a bustling city without paying a fortune in taxes, why wouldn’t you?
Forget The Past & Look To The Future
As you can see, Calgary has a lot to offer, both to skilled working professionals and to new businesses. But, if you listen to politicians, they all want to talk about bringing back what the city looked like before.
While oil and gas got the city to where it is today, it’s pretty clear that the industry won’t ever come back at the same levels that existed in the early 2000s. So, instead of looking backward, Calgary needs to set its sights on the future.
Calgary is well placed to be an emerging hub for the technology, agriculture, logistics, and tourism industries. Although oil and gas will continue in some fashion in the future, as a city and as a province, we need to focus on building a more diverse economy that can sustain us moving forward.
Ultimately, Calgary will continue to work through this slow patch for the next few years. But, as the economy changes, so will the city. Calgary will continue to grow and draw in new people that want to live in one of the greatest cities on Earth… so long as they can also tolerate a bit of cold weather!