A new ad campaign is pitching Calgary as a possible destination for tech workers and entrepreneurs currently living and working in Waterloo.
The city’s economic development agency has paid for more than a dozen bus ads and billboards in Kitchener and Waterloo that make the case for Calgary as a place to invest, set up shop or even open a satellite office.
Similar outdoor ads have been set up in Toronto, Vancouver and Seattle, said Brad Parry, VP of marketing and communications with Calgary Economic Development.
“We’re really looking to help change the perception of Calgary,” said Parry. “What we want to truly showcase is that there is a huge and burgeoning tech innovation ecosystem here.”
One bus stop ad near Bridgeport Plaza describes the city as home to “more than 110 life science companies,” as well as a leading facility for microbiome research.
Parry said the local industry also has opportunities available in clean energy, finance and digital media.
Push to diversify economy
Economist Todd Hirsch said the city has been pushing hard to diversify its economy, especially in the wake of the 2015 collapse in oil prices.
“It is rapidly becoming evident to everybody that we can no longer rely on oil prices coming back at some point,” said Hirsch, who is chief economist at ATB Financial, and is based in Calgary.
“We have to look at a different strategy … And growing our tech sector, I think, is a really important piece of adding more diversity.”
Attracting skilled workers is a particular priority for the province, he said, given that in recent quarters more people have been leaving Alberta than moving there.
And while Hirsch said the tech sector in Calgary is still “decades behind” that of cities like Waterloo and Vancouver, he said it is growing and there are different opportunities available.
Students and recent graduates starting out in the industry may see a particular appeal, he said.
“You can be on the ski slopes in an hour from downtown Calgary,” said Hirsch. “It’s a different flavour of city that I think might appeal to a lot of those young grads.”
The outdoor campaign in Kitchener and Waterloo will be up through the end of the calendar year, said Parry.