Today I joined hundreds of other Edmontonians at the 2010 EEDC Annual Luncheon, held at the Shaw Conference Centre. The event was an opportunity for EEDC to share its accomplishments over the past year, and to provide thoughts and guidance on the economic outlook for our city. Outgoing EEDC board chair Randy Ferguson got things underway with some thoughts on two of his favorite subjects: downtown, and EXPO 2017. Randy reiterated how important a downtown is to a city, and said that we must have the courage and commitment to make EXPO happen.
Next up was EEDC President & CEO Ron Gilbertson. Something that Ron has been showing a lot lately is the Edmonton Economic Dashboard, which grades our city on eight different aspects. Here’s where we are today:
- Income/GDP – A
- Retail Sales – A
- Unemployment – B
- Insolvency – C
- Office Vacancy – A
- Housing – B
- Air Service – B
- Inflation – A
Overall, that gives us a B+. Looking long-term, Ron gave Edmonton an A, saying:
Though Edmonton was not immune from the 2009 global decline, our economic fundamentals remain strong. Few economies have as bright prospects over the coming decades as Edmonton and northern Alberta.
The 2010 EEDC Awards of Excellence were also handed out:
- Leadership Excellence Award: EPCOR
- Innovation Excellence Award: Innovotech
- Recognition Excellence Award: Art Gallery of Alberta
EPCOR President & CEO Don Lowry, Innovotech President Ken Boutilier, and AGA Chair Allan Scott were all on-hand to accept the awards on behalf of their respective organizations.
University of Alberta President Dr. Indira Samarasekera closed out the event with a phenomenal speech about the importance of working together (which you can read online here in PDF, or here). She focused on innovation, smarts, and creativity, and shared some really interesting and scary statistics (such as the low percentage of Albertans that go to post secondary). My favorite part though, was the beginning:
“I would like each of you to take your trusty digital device – Blackberry, iPhone, Palm, whatever you use – from your belt or pocket, or out of your bag and purse, and hold it in your hand,” she instructed. “Now, take a second moment to take a good look at it. In your hand, you hold the symbol of innovation. We call them smart phones. These smart phones have transformed our lives – our social lives, our business lives, our family lives, even our emotional and physical well being.”
It was a great way to start. She said one of our biggest challenges is speed – we have shorter incubation times than ever before, and we need to keep up (Innovotech’s Ken Boutilier talked about that too in his remarks). She also said that we need some BHAGs – Big Hairy Audacious Goals. And she stressed that both the City and the University desperately need to diversity their talent and economic bases. Dr. Samarasekera is a great speaker, and was definitely the highlight of the luncheon.