Mary Moran has taken over the reins as president and chief executive of Calgary Economic Development (CED).
Moran, who has been with CED since 2010, took some time to chat with CREBNow about Calgary’s economic resiliency and what she thinks is the city’s best-kept secret.
CN: What is the importance of CED?
MM: There are kind of two pieces to it. CED, first and foremost, is the steward of the 10-year economic strategy for Calgary. So we corral all the partners in economic development: tourism, Innovate Calgary, post secondary’s, provincial government, federal government, City, City administration to the Chamber (of Commerce), (Calgary) Airport Authority (and) Community economic developers. In that strategy, we have 31 actions of which our organization only holds 11 of them. But our job is to make sure everybody else is delivering on the part they’re expected to deliver on. So it’s a very holistic view of economic development and very unique.
Our day-to-day work is really about being a conduit, connector, catalyst and storyteller. So we do business-to-business, business-to-government and government-to-government connections.
CN: How much has Calgary’s economy been impacted by a recent drop in oil prices?
MM: I would say, to date, it’s fared better than other jurisdictions in Alberta. In addition to a drop in oil prices, kind of the next thing we tend to watch are things like unemployment and vacancy rates – like office vacancy rates.
Unemployment in Calgary has been only marginally impacted so far. We’ve gone from having 5.3 per cent unemployment to 5.5 per cent unemployment which is still one of the lowest in the country. You’ll hear numbers like Edmonton shedding 14,000 jobs. Well, we have not had yet to date, in 2015, any net loss jobs. So although we’re shedding jobs in the energy and related industries, we’re gaining them in other areas. Transportation and logistics is probably the one we see the most growth in, where we’re seeing a 46 per cent employment growth. So it’s a sector that we’ve been really, really pushing to position Calgary as a western distribution hub with our foreign trade zone, etc.
And with the airport expansion distribution houses setting up here, we’ve seen tremendous growth with that. And then we’ve seen growth in other sectors as related to population – so education, health care, personal services. All those are off-setting job losses or job changes.
CN: How resilient is Calgary’s economy?
MM: I would say it’s not as resilient as I would like to see it, but people need to be cautious of throwing words around like diversification – that we need to diversify. We hear it all the time. It means different things to different people.
In the 10-year economic strategy we have basically said we will sustain growth by purposeful diversification, which is much different than diversification for the sake of diversifying. What we mean by that is we have to leverage our soft and hard infrastructure – people resources and building, location – to purposefully diversify. I always say diversifying isn’t about doing a U-turn and all of a sudden becoming the sporting goods apparel centre for Canada. It’s not our area of expertise. We need to build on our strengths which are around the energy industry and being a global player in that, being able to attract investment and leveraging our geographical location to nurture growth in growth sectors.
CN: What’s the best thing about living in Calgary?
MM: In addition to proximity to the mountains, it would be the people.
CN: What, if anything, is Calgary’s best-kept secret?
MM: Calgary’s best-kept secret is arts and culture. I don’t think we’ve done as good a job as we could do telling the arts and culture story here in Calgary … When you really get down to it, if you want real specifics about the best-kept secret, I would say the Folk Fest.