One of the most key questions our kids will need an answer to is where will my job come from, and what kind of economic opportunity can I count on in the future in Edmonton?
When I was elected Mayor in 2013, our economy was in a much different place. Oil prices were at $109 a barrel and people were flocking to Edmonton so quickly we couldn’t build housing fast enough.
We’re all slowly coming to terms with the fact that the next boom likely won’t come from oil, and that a world of $50 oil may be the new normal. Global political upheaval, protectionism, climate change action, and the economics of supply and demand have all changed Alberta – and Edmonton – likely permanently.
In my second term, if re-elected, my primary focus as Mayor will be on writing a new economic development plan for Edmonton – so that we can stay competitive now and into the future.
This plan for an ‘opportunity economy’ should have a number of critical components to it:
- A focus on growing Edmonton’s emerging sectors where we can compete and win. These sectors include artificial intelligence, logistics, advanced manufacturing, health innovation, green building technologies, plus food and agricultural technology.
- Create an innovation corridor that runs from NAIT to the University of Alberta, through our downtown – a series of places where innovation, entrepreneurship, the arts, creativity and vibrant urban life intersect.
- Build on the work we’ve done to unite the region around economic growth and enable us to ‘hunt as a pack’ to attract new investments, share the costs of growth and create more jobs.
- Create a culture of ‘yes’ with City staff to ensure entrepreneurs have the support they need to build their businesses and export their ideas around the world.
- Reduce license fees for small businesses to help these businesses thrive, enrich our communities and strengthen our employment base.
This isn’t to say we should abandon our past successes as a service centre for resource industries. On the contrary. Oil, gas, forestry and mining will continue to support our economic base long into the future. I want to create more pathways for these traditional businesses to assess their operations, use technology to drive change and strengthen their business models, and stay competitive. The innovations these companies have and will continue to pioneer should be exported around the world – a simple problem they solve could turn into a global business. Our new economic development plan should help businesses adopt new technologies and connect them with innovators who can help do things differently.