Ward 6 city councillor Jeff Davison spent years marketing and promoting large companies, but he now faces the difficult task of helping Calgary become a welcoming place to invest and grow businesses as a newcomer to Calgary politics.
“We’re getting to a place where we can start climbing out of the slump. The question is, what is the strategy forward, and it’s not just about attracting business here, it’s about retaining business here.”
The new councillor won with nearly 45 per cent of the vote in his ward in Calgary’s municipal election back in October 2017. The success of his campaign, he claims, may have stemmed from campaigns he ran for various brands in the past.
“You’re marketing yourself, you’re marketing the vision you have for the city, you’re marketing your background, you really become the brand in the campaign,” he said. “No marketer likes to market themselves.”
Davison believes his time spent as a brand marketer and corporate liaison for several companies has prepared him to work in the public sector.
“When you boil it down, it’s really the same assets you’re looking at, in terms of a political campaign,” said Davison, who describes his work as being a storyteller for brands.
“Calgary offers a lot of world-class assets to people, whether it’s the talent that we have here, the people we have here, the space we have available, the cost of living, the quality of life... all of those things are going to play big factors into drawing industry back here.” — Jeff Davison
“The interesting thing about [brand and product marketing] is that it’s cross-sector. I’ve worked in oil and gas, entertainment, so the skill set of having marketing communications behind me is really one that now I can bring into politics.”
Andrew Osis, Davison’s friend and business partner, describes a phone conversation the two had before Davison entered the race for Ward 6, saying that Davison felt confident in his chances of winning.
“He was convinced that, given the landscape of people who had put their names forward at the time, he felt he could do a better job,” said Osis. “When he decided to make the run for it, he was fully committed.”
Osis has known Davison for 15 years. The two worked together on several different projects including the discontinued business search mobile application Poynt. At one time, Osis said, Poynt hosted 25 million users.
Osis’ contribution to the Davison campaign was one of a economic angle.
“Where I tried to help Jeff was providing a bit of analysis and expertise from a financial perspective… talking through various issues and providing advice, so he could shape his platform, and how he wanted to approach the election,” Osis said.
Osis expects that his friend will not shy away from tough decisions while on city council.
“I know Jeff will continue to ask both the right questions, but also the practical questions, of fiscal responsibility.”
Davison remains cautious but hopeful for Calgary’s fiscal situation. He describes the current dilemma as “a very unique economic downturn.” Davison said he plans to take great strides to encourage businesses to return to the city.
“Calgary offers a lot of world-class assets to people, whether it’s the talent that we have here, the people we have here, the space we have available, the cost of living, the quality of life... all of those things are going to play big factors into drawing industry back here,” said Davison.
He also stressed the importance of maintaining diversity within Calgary’s business portfolio.
“That will be the challenge over the next cycle of council, to affect strategy that does allow big business to come to Calgary, but also allows small businesses to operate here too.”
Steve Chapman, co-campaign manager for the Davison campaign, shares Davison’s concerns for the future of the city.
“Calgary is not providing the opportunities that it was 10, 15 years ago, and his concern is if we continue on that trend, then realistically, people in the next generation are going to have to leave Calgary,” Chapman said.
Chapman met Davison through campaign manager Bruce Lee. Lee also served as campaign manager for Davison’s predecessor, Richard Pootmans.
According to Chapman, Davison invested a considerable amount of time into his own campaign.
“He certainly had ideas as to what could work, so he was certainly an active participant in the campaign process.”
Chapman says council needs to engage with business in the city, in order for Calgary’s entrepreneurial spirit to remain.“Unless we start to see government step up to encourage entrepreneurship, then we could see a massive decrease in that availability,” he said.
Chapman believes that Davison will bring an awful lot to city council.
Davison will not only work for Ward 6, but for the entire city in order to improve the relationship between businesses and the local government.
“One of the reasons I came to this job is because I wanted to see city council do a lot more, or create closer ties, between council and industry,” Davison said.
Davison looks forward to showing his prospects to a council largely made up of incumbents.
“I don’t think having prior political history means anything anymore. I think it’s really about bringing the unique perspective to the table, and having a unique perspective doesn’t always mean that you’re new to politics.”
- By Noel Harper