Calgary Should Remain Optimistic

It’s no secret that the Canadian economy is doing poorly. With the Canadian dollar sitting at a decade low of under 73 cents and the price of oil continuing to sink, the province of Alberta is facing a particularly bleak financial outlook. “There’s no need to remind weary Calgarians of the job losses in the oil and gas sector, with more than 40,000 receiving pink slips, a figure that will help bring the province’s unemployment rate up to a forecast 6.9 per cent in 2016, exceeding the national average for the first time since 1988,” Calgary Herald reporter, Valerie Fortney, wrote in mid-December.

While many of the reports paint a very dismal portrait, it isn’t all doom and gloom. Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi told a group of business people and city employees that construction on several massive office towers in the downtown core reflect that businesses and companies believe in the resilience of Calgary and the Alberta economy. “You build it at the bottom of the cycle and you lease it at the top of the cycle,” the mayor said. “I would never bet against Calgary and people with money aren’t making those bets.”

I have had friends and colleagues in the province and elsewhere ask me about the economic situation. One email came from a fellow Calgarian who now lives in the United States. “Rob Peers, what is happening in Calgary?” read the subject line. I assured my good friend that Calgarians are known for their grace under pressure, so we will be just fine.

While addressing the Chamber of Commerce, Mayor Nenshi also outlined a plan to help the city recover quickly. The process hinges on the city council approving a strategic capital budget plan “ … that increases spending by $2 billion to help stimulate the economy and create jobs.” This is what Mayor Nenshi told the Chamber.

The mayor then pointed out that the city has created more jobs than it has lost in the past year (5,500 jobs), although many might be part time and not pay as well as the jobs that have been lost.

Ari Pandes, an assistant professor of finance at the Haskayne School of Business at the University of Calgary, offered up some tips to help businesses and owners stay strong in the economic storm. Pandes recommends cutting excess costs as a way to make your business is lean and also to make sure that you are upfront and honest with your bank.

“A forewarning to the financial institution tends to help your banker understand what’s going on with your business,” he says. “That’s probably one of the most productive things I’ve witnessed in downturns. There is no lender that ever tries to make a bad loan because a successful client is truly the best thing on earth for a financial institution.”

In November, a citizen satisfaction survey was conducted in Calgary. The results were telling. 89 percent of Calgarians believe “… the city can play a big role in helping our community weather difficult economic times.”

86 percent of respondents reported their quality of life was good and they were remaining optimistic. “The data shows that despite the economic downturn, Calgarians are proud to live here and hopeful about Calgary’s future,” said Mayor Naheed Nenshi. “Research like this helps guide Council as we make decisions about capital investments and how The City can support the quality of life we all enjoy.”

Staying optimistic and knowing this too shall pass is critical in tough financial times. “I’m excited,” Calgarian Dayna Schnell told the Calgary Herald while attending a job fair. “Even in recessions, there is always work for people who are open to new things, if I walk out of here with a job today, great, but I’m also happy if I just make a good impression on a few prospective employers.”

Schnell’s attitude is indicative of the general attitude Calgarians have as a whole. The resilience and determination of Calgary residents was on full display during the economic downturn in 2008 and the massive floods in 2013. After each emergency, the city regained its former glory and then some.

Earlier this week I received an email response back from friend, “Rob Peers, I was just kidding, I know what Calgarians are made of!” read the email.