Hunting for Calgary’s next economic opportunities

Mary Moran of Calgary Economic Development talks about how the organization has evolved to keep the city's engine running

Mary Moran is president and CEO of Calgary Economic Development.

Mary Moran

Calgary Economic Development is frequently in the news but I don’t think many Calgarians really understand its role. Tell us about the organization’s purpose and mission?

Moran: One of our primary roles is to be the steward of the economic strategy for the community. So we try to bring people together to try to solve problems. But our main business is really about foreign direct investment, business attraction, talent attraction, as well as teaching companies here how to grow and scale up.

Can you explain CED’s relationship with the City of Calgary?

Moran:  We’re a wholly-owned subsidiary of the City of Calgary, but we have a separate board of directors and so I report to the board of directors, as does the rest of the organization. They’re our primary funder but we also get a substantial amount of funding from the private sector.

How has the organization evolved and changed over the years?

Moran: We’ve had to go through a cultural change and certainly the economy was a big driver of that. I would say we were nurturing economic opportunities before and now we’re hunting them. And so it’s been a big dramatic shift internally. Not everybody’s cup of tea.

But we’re very metrics driven. It’s about the number of jobs we create, companies we attract and retain, and how many people we help with trades agreements.

Anything new coming up for the organization in the next year?

Moran: There’s a couple of key priorities.

The first priority for us would be that we want to go after larger size companies. Larger size today doesn’t mean it will employ thousands of people. But it’s really driven to the modernization, automation and digitization of our sectors and position in Calgary as an innovation centre for our industrial sectors.

Our second priority is around our Opportunity Calgary Investment Fund and how we use it as a tool to advance cluster development, attract anchor companies and help companies here that are catalytic to scale and growth.

As an organization, when you go out to try to convince companies to either move here or expand here, what are your main selling points?

Moran: Once we get over the big question, which is “Where’s Calgary?” we have such a strong value proposition and particularly compared to some of our Canadian cities that are very constrained for office space. We have a good talent pool. We’re good at building good talent pools here.

We have to round our talent out for the new economy, for all the advance technologies, but really the quality of life is probably the differentiator compared to our Canadian cities and many U.S. cities. Certainly having the Rocky Mountain playground is great because the reality is as companies need to bring in, attract and retain talent and to keep them happy, having that offering here is really important, combined with the low cost of living here compared to the other cities.

It’s a pretty easy sell once you get in the door.

– Mario Toneguzzi

calgary economic

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