Five reasons for optimism during this gloomy summer in Calgary
The gloomy clouds that have been hanging over the city could be a metaphor for all that’s wrong in Calgary these days. The unemployment rate, at 8.6 per cent, is the highest among cities listed by Statistics Canada. Real estate has gone the other way, with home sales dropping for the 20th consecutive month. We’ve had so much rain lately we’re starting to look like Ireland of the West. But there are some positive things to embrace as a way to shake the malaise, writes Michele Jarvie.
With their win Thursday, the Stampeders have galloped to first in the West. Quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell is hitting his stride with solid options like Jerome Messam, Marquay McDaniel and Lamar Durant moving the ball down field. And the best thing for avid Stamps fans about being at the top is that Saskatchewan is at the bottom. Things are looking up for Calgary’s other major team as the Flames now have some solid talent between the pipes. Brian Elliot brings substantive numbers from his time in St. Louis — second in goals-against average (2.07), second in save percentage (0.930) and a 23-8-6 regular season record. Here’s hoping he can repeat that in front of the boys in red.
Low oil prices have slowed the patch down but the void is being filled by another sector. Calgary is fast becoming a major transportation and logistics hub with a soon-to-open new airport terminal. WestJet, celebrating 20 years since its first flight, has added dozens of extra flights and new routes this year including London, England. Calgary is also expanding its influence as a cargo hub with new space at the airport anchored by DHL Express. The area is already home to other transportation businesses such as FedEx, Purolator and UPS. A number of large companies are also showing their confidence in city and occupying large warehouse space, including Canadian Tire, Sobeys’, Sears Canada and Walmart.
The arts are where it’s at in Calgary these days. With the openings of the Calgary Film Centre and Studio Bell, the National Music Centre’s new home, the city has cemented its place as a cultural hub. The music centre, borne from the bones of the King Eddy Hotel, is a 160,000-square-foot amalgamation of exhibition areas, galleries, performance hall, recording and broadcast facilities and interactive storytelling space. The newly opened $28.2-million film centre expects to attract more film and TV productions such as Heartland and the British series Tin Star, starring Tim Roth and Christina Hendricks. The Emmy-winning series Fargo, which pumped $46 million into the economy in its first two years, is also back for a third season.
It may seem an unusual time to launch luxury stores in Calgary, however, two high-end American retailers are betting on the long game in the city by opening here. Seattle-based Nordstrom, which opened its first Canadian shop in Chinook Centre in 2014, also plans a discounted Rack location in Deerfoot Meadows. Uber-upscale Saks Fifth Avenue will open in Chinook in January 2018, banking on the belief there’s still significant disposable income here. A Saks OFF 5th outlet location is also slated to open later this year at CrossIron Mills mall. Other popular businesses expanding their reach in Calgary include Mountain Equipment Co-op with two new locations and another Costco warehouse.
Two things could give Calgary a big boost in tourism dollars this year: Canadans taking staycations and the launch of the first non-stop airline connection to China. The Hainan Airlines flight has the potential to bring 37,000 additional Chinese travellers in its first year, generating $75 million annually for local tourism. Officials are also hoping dollars flow here as Canadans look to spend holidays in the province. The city may benefit from the huge boost in travellers in the mountain parks. Banff saw an eight per cent jump to 3.9 million visitors, Jasper is up five per cent to 2.3 million, and Waterton Lakes rose 16 per cent to 486,000 visitors for the financial year ended in March.
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