Although long seen as a hub for the oil and gas industry, Calgary is seeing a new kind of boom — in the tech industry.
While the energy sector is still a major player in the local economy, the technology industry has seen a massive boost in recent years. According to data released by LinkedIn in April 2022, Calgary had the fastest growth of tech talent in North America in the past year.
Megan Zimmerman, the director of business development at Calgary Economic Development (CED), believes Calgary’s technology scene is now one of the city’s primary industries.
“We’re building something now that I think really has a strong foundation, which will benefit talent, businesses and community for a really long time,” says Zimmerman.
She adds that Calgary has always been successful in the technology industry due to the amount of proficient workers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) fields.
“We’ve always had a really high-quality STEM workforce, which is the underpinning piece to any tech ecosystem and tech city,” says Zimmerman. “You need high-quality talent that understands technology and innovation, and I think Calgary is well suited there.”
To stay atop the tech talent pyramid, attracting new talent to Calgary is one of the primary goals for the CED.
“We’re attracting, retaining and upscaling top world-class talent to continue to be able to bolster the growth of those companies,” says Zimmerman.
Growth in the industry
In March, Prairies Economic Development Canada, a government department that prioritizes economic diversification across Alberta, provided 13 Calgary-based tech companies with $22.3 million worth of interest-free loans.
“Our focus at PrairiesCan is on ensuring these high-growth companies have access to resources, capital and support to scale up to the next level and bring their products and services to new markets, which creates good-paying jobs for people across the Prairies,” the government agency said in an email.
Calgary’s support of its local economy has attracted more tech talent to the city, says Aaron Wilson, the marketing director of Blacksquare.
“Calgary is a great place to live and work. It has a great startup community and lots of great entrepreneurs, and the community is really supportive of those industries.”
Blacksquare is one of the 13 companies that were recognized by PrairiesCan, who use technology to bridge the gap between business and consumer.
Using its digital platform, Insight, Blacksquare is able to create a direct-to-consumer opportunity for alcohol brands and their customers.
“People really accelerated their online purchases and the way they buy. We’re positioned really well to be a part of that wave,” says Wilson.
Calgary’s economic landscape has changed with the recent growth of the technology industry, and people are beginning to recognize the sector as one of the primary drivers of growth in the city.
“To really see that shift in ideology in what can be the driving force for the Calgary business community is very exciting,” says Wilson.
Ultimately, Wilson believes part of the allure of moving businesses to Calgary is the community and atmosphere.
“Frankly, the people, I think, are the gold here in Alberta.”