Why Do Businesses in Calgary Thrive?

4min read

Calgary is a unicorn city. By that, I mean it has everything you’re looking for in one incredible package. Read on to find out why businesses in Calgary thrive.

Folks Are Friendly

We call Calgary the “biggest small town” for a reason. The desire to meet with and help each other is why I love working here. The ability to connect with (almost) anyone is Calgary’s best superpower. I would challenge you to get a call back from a top executive in any other global city — it just doesn’t seem to happen as often as it does here.

I love the selflessness that comes from this concept of “we’re all in this together” that has saturated the Calgary culture for decades.

Chris Foster, CIO, and VP of Information Systems at TC Energy is the kind of man that spends hours, days, and weeks on great ideas. One of his best? To connect directly with other entrepreneurs to help them on their journey to success.

I could give up a day once a quarter to connect local entrepreneurs in Calgary and say, “I want to bring you behind the curtain and show you things. How our businesses are going, talk to you about the opportunities we think we have, and invite you to disrupt us. But let’s do that together. Let’s do it in a way that benefits us both.”

I hear it repeatedly — from entrepreneurs just starting to seasoned business owners — that Calgarians are willing to show up for and help each other in ways that leaders in other cities just don’t.

Take Bobbie Racette, Founder of Virtual Gurus, a company that went from an underdog in 2016 to receive $1.2M in funding by early 2020. This didn’t happen in a vacuum. It took 170 “No’s” and plenty of advice to get there.

“I started reaching out to people and getting advice. Now we’ve actually made hundreds of investor friends from it because I took needing to get their advice [seriously].”

The advice gleaned from connecting with others helped Bobbie make the necessary changes to attract and secure seven-figure funding. But Calgary’s helpful attitude isn’t the only reason why this is the best place in the world to do business. Our location is also central to the story.

Goldilocks Location

Photo courtesy of Kalen Emsley

Not only do we have an incredible backyard, but we’ve got a boon of natural resources, low taxes, top-ranking universities, and a lifestyle advantage. When it comes to doing business, our location is just right.

Calgary International Airport is an economic driver for the city, and they have been investing heavily into their facilities for the past fifteen years with this mandate in mind. Creating a dedicated cargo and courier area increased efficiency for them to operate, attracting more business and improving passenger experience as cargo and passenger flights no longer had to contend for the same space.

Photo courtesy of Calgary International Airport

Our historically powerful industries, such as oil and gas and construction, are also getting innovative treatment. Scott Jenkins, President and CEO of ZS2 Technologies, saw that the concrete industry was ripe for disruption. So he founded a Calgary-based company to do just that.

They Hate Us ’Cause They Ain’t Us

While other Canadians might get a giggle out of calling us the “Texas of Canada,” don’t take it at face value. The Economist ranks Calgary as the number one most livable city in North America (take that, San Francisco!) and the fourth most livable city globally.

We are proud to be a vibrant city of distinct communities. Just take Victoria Park as one example. David Low, the business improvement area’s Executive Director, recently told me:

“We are one of the most diverse areas in the city in terms of land use. And by land uses, I mean what you are legally allowed to do. So, we have everything from light industrial to food manufacturing to autobody to a multinational corporation to high-end clothing stores to Calgary’s best restaurants and bars. Then residents all mixed into this thing we call Victoria Park.”

We’re Building the Future

Our province began investing in artificial intelligence long before anyone else — by almost two decades. This foresight has paid off in dividends, as our tech ecosystem has become one of Canada’s best.

We have large tech organizations purposefully selecting Calgary as their headquarters, like Neo Financial, Thin Air Labs, Teser Technologies, and Attabotics.

Photo courtesy of Teser Technologies

Tech companies aren’t the only ones welcomed into the fold. We open our arms to entrepreneurs from all over the world in all areas. 95% of all businesses in Calgary are small businesses, and BCG recently ranked Calgary as the #1 city for international talent attraction.

Whatever your career dream is, I’d hedge my bets that Calgary is the place to turn that dream into reality. Drop a comment below and tell me why Calgary is your favourite place to do business. Or, if you think I am wrong, tell me why!


What makes for a successful podcast?

“To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” — Buckminster Fuller

COVID-19 disrupted the concept of “being in the office” and proved that many companies and individuals had the ability to produce valuable outputs in a different setting. As the pandemic slowly begins to retreat, many organizations have shifted focus to discussing work from home versus work from the office. The conversation that needs to be had is about what creates value not where you are physically located.

“Work is a thing you do, not a place you go to.”

This does not mean that coming together in a fixed location can not create value; on the contrary, when done properly it can be an accelerant for new ideas and ways of thinking. The “heavy lifting” required on the part of not only the leadership team but of the entire organization is putting in the energy to personalize how this split of location-based value creation is used.

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