Recap: Edmonton’s Economic Impact Luncheon 2014

“This is a new Edmonton, with a new mayor, a new confidence, and a new energy,” EEDC President & CEO Brad Ferguson told attendees of the sold-out 2014 EEDC Impact Luncheon today. Hundreds of Edmontonians, including a large number of political dignitaries, filled the Shaw Conference Centre for EEDC’s annual state of the economy. Brad wasted no time in reiterating a message he has been consistently delivering since taking over a little over a year ago. “Our ability to compete and to be different has never been more important,” he said.

Impact 2014

Deputy Premier Dave Hancock brought greetings from the Province of Alberta, and made note of the number of his colleagues that were in attendance. “There are so many of us here, because we believe that the partnership that we have with EEDC, with the City of Edmonton, and with the Capital Region, is so important.”

Mayor Don Iveson also brought opening remarks. “Right now our city is one of the best places in the world to take a risk, launch an idea, or start a business,” the mayor said. “There is a renewed sense of optimism here in Edmonton.”

After lunch, it was on the main event. You can listen to Brad’s entire speech here:

“Last year was a great year,” Brad said. “Our objective was to outperform every other regional economy in North America, and we did.” He highlighted our city’s economic performance and rosy outlook through a series of measures:

2013 2012 Change
GDP $81.675 billion $78.286 billion +4.3%
Population 1.2 million 1.15 million +3.9%
Net Jobs 19,700 26,500 -34.5%
Unemployment 4.8% 4.4% -0.4%
Inflation 1.1% 1.3% -0.2%
Building Permits $3.0 billion $2.5 billion +22.6%
Major Projects $220.0 billion $193.5 billion +13.6%

Obviously the increased GDP, population, and jumps in the number of building permits issued and major projects identified are positive. Brad noted that although the number of jobs created in 2013 was actually down, context is needed. “One out of every ten jobs created across the country was created here,” he told us.

Brad opened his speech with another measure, of course. Last year he rated Edmonton’s efforts on image and branding at 1.5 out of 10. “I didn’t want to understate the work that needed to be done,” he confessed. It was one of the catalysts for the major changes that EEDC has undergone over the last year. His ranking today? With some input from Councillor Sohi, 2.5 out of 10. “We have a long way to go, but it’s a 66.6% improvement over last year!”

Though Edmonton had a strong year in 2013, the future is even brighter. “We’re anticipating us contributing $2.1 trillion of economic contribution to the country” over the next two decades, Brad told the audience. A large reason for this, is development related to the oil sands. But for all the good work going on, Brad said we need to do more.

That led to his core takeaway for the day:

“The only way forward is to embrace the mantra of: cleaner, greener, safer, faster, cheaper. We need to build our industries and build our entrepreneurs, and activate the country in doing so.”

Embracing that mantra is what will lead to the next wave of innovation, key to diversifying our economy, Brad told us. “The oil sands and the industrial supply chain are the platform of which we get to diversification.” And now is the right time, because our capabilities have caught up with our ambitions. “There’s nothing holding us back.”

Brad went on to connect this opportunity with Edmonton’s place in the country. “We can’t do it alone,” he said. “We need to open up the access point and invite the rest of the country to participate.”

With that, Brad described five big priorities for the year ahead:

  1. Alert the world to the energy in Edmonton
  2. Attract & active those seeking opportunity
  3. Enhance & expand our influence as an economic powerhouse
  4. Diversify by using our strengths as a platform for innovation
  5. Operate as one interconnected, interdependent region

On that last point, he noted “that doesn’t mean amalgamation all the time.” Instead, Brad called for relationships and partnerships with other communities.

“Gone are the days where things happen to us,” Brad declared. “Our strategy is sound, our success lies in our ability to move forward with intention.” It was a confident conclusion to an excellent speech.

Impact 2014

Once again the Edmonton Journal livestreamed the event. You can watch part one here, and part two here.

The luncheon was also an opportunity for EEDC to launch its 2014-2016 Statement of Intent:

The decade ahead will be one where competitiveness will take on a whole new meaning in everything we do. Alberta is expected to continue as a high-growth jurisdiction in a low- growth world, making Edmonton a prime location for the attraction of business, investment and people. Global demand for resources will drive opportunities for capital expansion, while also attracting an aggressive assortment of new competitors in search of a share of the local market. These realities will have significant impact on our local economy, and the role of an effective economic development agency has never been more important.

You can learn more about EEDC and what they have planned for 2014 at their new website. You can read my recap of last year’s event here.