Calgary Economic Development (CED) and the Calgary TELUS Convention Centre kicked off a year long, nine session Soul of the City speaker series to answer just that. CED is touting the series as a year-long engagement with Calgarians about what makes Calgary great and attracts the brightest people to be part of our energy.

The series kicked off Sept. 26 at the Simmons Building where more than 100 people took part in a discussion from consultant and placemaker Katherine Loflin.

“We are in a bit of a place renaissance,” said Loflin. “Where people are reprioritizing place like they never have before, people are talking about their interests in having somewhere to live that they want to live.”

Loflin has traveled extensively around the United States advising elected officials, planners, foundations, business leaders and more looking to improve their cities and innovate in economic development using the placemaking model.

““Placemaking is really just about optimizing a place, it’s about being who you are,” she said.

Bruce Graham, president and CEO of Calgary Economic Development explained Calgary is sometimes characterized as a “revolving door” for people looking for economic opportunity to come here and move on to somewhere else, a pattern that it’s time to change.

He referred to a study conducted by Gallup for Knight’s Soul of the Community project — exploring what makes people love where they live — and in which Loflin was a lead consultant.

“The most important factors that create that bond wasn’t about jobs and the economy, but I might suggest that would be the starting point to getting people to where they’re going but what keeps them there,” he said. “What really drives, I think, their culture is the physical beauty, the opportunities for socializing and the cities openness.”

Calgary Mayor, Naheed Nenshi wasn’t available to attend the talk but provided a video feed with his thoughts on recognizing what Calgary needs to continue to be an attractive place to live for the “best” people from around the world.

“The real question becomes, how can we make sure that our city is attractive to these people and I think that has a lot to do with what this speaker series calls the Soul of the City, the urban fabric, those things that make a city exciting, interesting and cool that’s why it addresses things like arts and culture, sports and recreation, even great transit, great public places is so important for the future of the city,” he said. “They’re not important just for their own sake, they’re also important to be apart of economic development, so how do we create that vibe, how do we use what is authentically exciting and Calgarian with the kinds of things that will attract and keep the smartest minds from around the world to live here.”

Upcoming Soul of the City speaker series will cover topics ranging from sustainability to urban design to diversity, for more information check out Calgary Economic Development.

What do you think makes Calgary great? What attracts people to live here?