Sarah Woodgate explains six-point strategy


Sarah Woodgate is manager of the City of Calgary’s Action Plan, a plan that maps out the city’s infrastructure and services plan over the next four years.

Woodgate says she does not view the economic downturn as unbearable. Working for the city since 2001, Woodgate is in charge of the plan designed to lead the city through economic uncertainty.

In a recent telephone Q & A interview, Woodgate offered her perspective on the city’s approach to the downturn. The Q & A has been edited for length and clarity.

In a general sense, what does this downturn mean for our city in regards to development?

In terms of development, the City of Calgary during this downturn has an opportunity to catch up with infrastructure for growth and maintenance. We are targeting to maintain city services as they were approved in December throughout the downturn and continue to evaluate what is happening in the economy because we are in a time of uncertainty right now. And so, it is about being prepared to respond.

In a Feb. 10 press release the city promised to develop new opportunities to create employment and expand Calgary’s economic base. How is that going to happen?

So we had a six-point strategy that we brought to council to begin the conversation about how to sarah1Sarah Woodgate, manager of the City of Calgary’s Action Plan says that Calgary will survive this downturn because our city’s greatest resource is skilled workers.

Photo courtesy of Catharina Lind.respond in a time of uncertainty. And there were four strategies that were primarily focused on good governance. One of the four was also about infrastructure investment — which really does both things in terms of good governance as well as economic development. And then the last two strategies are about preparing for economic recovery. And those are where we are working with external partners. We have a new plan that was actually just approved and it is a community plan by the Calgary Economic Development team. So we have a really good road map already. This isn’t something that we aren’t prepared for. We are well prepared for changes in Calgary’s economy and so we want to move forward to continue with that plan.

One key area that we really want to focus on is Calgary and Alberta are very successful because their resources are people. We have highly skilled people, we have a wonderful workforce and we also have a lot of initiative to continue to make sure that everyone in Calgary is prosperous. And so one of the areas that we are looking at is what can be done to retain productive people, businesses, jobs, and investment projects while preparing for a recovery. And one of the roles that the city can play is looking at our infrastructure and continuing to fund infrastructure and not pulling back on it — taking advantage of the lower prices and also looking at infrastructure that will create jobs in the short term through construction but also in the long term.{cbrelatedarticle show=”right” ids=”2658,2670,2656″ /}

Are there any lessons that the city learned from the last downturn that are going to be applied to this one?

One of the things that we learned the last time we had a downturn was with our skilled workforce and with the economy, we had a really quick recovery. So what we are really focusing on is responding to the downturn right now and also preparing for recovery. I think we have had such rapid growth in Calgary compared to the rest of Canada, we really want to make sure that we are ready and ahead of the game to continue to respond.

Read this Calgary Journal special report for an in-depth comparison between Jim Prentice’s response to the current drop in oil prices and Don Getty’s response in the 1980s.

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