Working Better with Partners to Achieve Progress
Financial Task Force recommendations for Focus #8:
Working with partners to promote Calgary
The City is responding to Financial Task Force recommendations concerning the crisis level vacancy in the downtown office market and working with partners to promote Calgary through the following actions:
Downtown is central to Calgary’s economic recovery. It is the economic and cultural heart of Calgary - our central hub for business, innovation and creativity. What happens downtown, especially in terms of real estate, has a direct impact on the rest of the city. Calgary needs a strong core to grow our economy, create jobs and fund the City services we rely on every day.
To increase the vibrancy and economic vitality of the downtown, Council approved the Greater Downtown Plan and initial investments for implementation in April 2021. Since that time, the Downtown Strategy team has leveraged the collective efforts of The City and public and private sector partners to:
- Launch the Downtown Development Incentive Program Phase 1 (office to residential conversion). There has been significant market interest with 13 applications received. The evaluation process is now underway.
- Open the Stephen Avenue Safety Hub - in September 2021, The City and Calgary Police Service opened a single, centralized location on Stephen Avenue where uniformed officers can collaborate on common issues, complete necessary paperwork and store equipment. The innovative working space for this initiative was generously donated by Slate Management and the Calgary Downtown Association. It will operate as a two-year pilot project.
This initiative provides the opportunity to increase the visibility of uniformed Police, Bylaw and Transit officers in the downtown core, enhancing the sense of safety and security for citizens and businesses. The Downtown Ambassadors and Stephen Avenue Safety Hub received funding from Council to operate these downtown community safety initiatives through to 2023.
- Advance additional projects such as the Future of Stephen Avenue, Tomorrow’s Chinatown, and Eau Claire Area Improvements.
Calgary in the New Economy is a community built and supported strategy guided by local business and community leaders representing various industries, post-secondary institutions and municipal agencies. Insights were also gathered from community stakeholders and citizens.
The vision is for Calgary to be the city of choice in Canada for the world’s best entrepreneurs who are embracing technology to solve the world’s greatest challenges: cleaner energy, safe and secure food, efficient movement of goods and people, and better health solutions.
Calgary Economic Development stewards the implementation of the economic strategy in collaboration with other stakeholders and Civic Partners. Significant progress and achievements include:
- Opportunity Calgary Investment Fund announced $2 million in investments to support Endeavor Global Canada and SVG Ventures/THRIVE.
- Two Opportunity Calgary Investment Fund RFPs issued: Innovation Ecosystems and Fund Manager:
- The first RFP, Innovation Ecosystem, pursued organizations that could provide training and mentoring to grow local companies.
- The second RFP, Fund Manager, sought a qualified firm to manage a new or existing fund, leveraging other investors to identify and invest in early-stage technology-focused entities in Calgary.
- The Opportunity Calgary Investment Fund will support local entrepreneurs and startups through the establishment of Plug and Play Alberta by global business accelerator Plug and Play LLC with its headquarters in Calgary. Plug and Play was selected for OCIF support following a request for proposal (RFP) for business incubators and accelerators to address an identified scaleup gap in our innovation ecosystem by helping local tech companies grow while attracting global investment to Calgary.
- Accelerate Fund III LP is the first third-party fund manager selected to create a pool of capital for Calgary-focused early-stage investments. The Opportunity Calgary Investment Fund (OCIF) will contribute $6 million to Accelerate Fund III, which will match dollars from OCIF to support early-stage companies and help accelerate the growth of the local tech and innovation sector.
- Calgary has seen 29 venture capital investments totaling $252 million and is set to outpace 2020 investment activity.
- Startup Genome Global Startup Ecosystem Report ranked Calgary as one of the top 100 emerging tech startup ecosystems in the world, and second in Canada as an innovation ecosystem with the best “bang for buck” for the average amount of money raised by local tech startups. The City was also cited as one of the top 20 North American cities for hiring affordable talent.
- The International Economic Development Council (IEDC) awarded Calgary Economic Development with a gold rank for its Calgary sector videos, and a bronze rank for its New Economy LIVE event series.
- Soft launch opening of the Platform Innovation Centre, a multi-functional space dedicated to supporting start-up projects and entrepreneurs come together and create ideas that will shape the future.
- Calgary recorded double-digit growth in tech talent and total tech jobs over the past five years, rising six spots to 28th place among the Top 50 North American markets in CBRE’s 2021 Scoring Tech Talent report.
- Notable attraction wins in 2021 include: RBC Innovation Hub, Endeavor Canada, Infosys, Mphasis, SVG Ventures | Thrive, Amazon Web Services.
Engagement and advocacy with other orders of government for better fiscal tools
The external Financial Task Force members made 12 recommendations whose successful implementation depends on support from other orders of government, ranging from legislative or regulatory change to improved coordination and communication. These recommendations have lent important expert and quasi-independent endorsement of many of the existing positions taken by The City for municipal financial reform.
Since the release and adoption of the related Engagement Plan developed by Intergovernmental & Corporate Strategy, The City has continued to push for change on advocacy ready items to:
- Improve reliance on non-property tax revenue and reduce the shortcomings of over-reliance on property tax.
- Consider differentiated taxation for businesses and organizations that make significant contributions to the fabric of the city.
- Work with the province to allow legislator’s intent on the definitions for non-residential subclasses.
- Collaborate with the province to authorize tools that address service costs that arise from provincial government direction or changes.
The engagement plan is leveraging several strategies based on past advocacy experience with the same or similar issues, the current intergovernmental context, and anticipated risks and opportunities, including enlisting partner voices in a campaign for change. To this end, The City of Calgary recently submitted a resolution asking the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association (AUMA) to call on the Government of Alberta to work with all municipalities on municipal finance reforms, including:
- The expansion of revenue tools to reduce reliance on property taxes as opportunities allow,
- The expansion of property tax flexibility as opportunities allow,
- The expansion of revenue tools to non-property related activities as opportunities allow,
- The development of non-residential property sub-classes that are efficient and easily administered to allow municipalities a tool for targeted financial relief.
In addition, the AUMA, in collaboration with Alberta’s municipalities, and if possible, the Government of Alberta, will also undertake research studies and collect information on:
- The impact of e-commerce and new models of goods and services delivery on municipal economies and finances, and
- Identifying a comprehensive list of services and associated costs redirected to municipalities.
On November 18, 2021 the AUMA membership endorsed this resolution with 89 per cent in favour, which will now become AUMA policy. The City will continue to work with AUMA to carry the message forward.
The inclusion of the Financial Task Force recommendations into AUMA’s municipal finance reform advocacy is expected to assist in the collective effort to gain the fiscal tools necessary to allow Alberta municipalities to thrive and continue to provide effective delivery of services and infrastructure into the future while meeting the challenges of a rapidly evolving economy and society.
Engagement activities will proceed through the fall and return to Intergovernmental Affairs Committee with an update and discussion of the next steps in 2021 December. For Calgarians, this plan represents an opportunity to support Calgary’s economic recovery and financial resiliency with innovative solutions recommended by an expert panel. Successful reform of the fiscal framework through advocacy should have positive long-term implications for The City to finance its social and environmental obligations and priorities