Calgary Economic Development ‘really disappointed’ with failure of city’s bid for Amazon HQ2

Click to play video 'Calgary won’t be home to Amazon’s second North American headquarters' Calgary won’t be home to Amazon’s second North American headquarters
WATCH: Amazon has announced its top 20 cities that could be the site for its second North American headquarters and Calgary is not on the list. Here's Christa Dao with reaction about the news – Jan 18, 2018

Amazon won’t be building its new headquarters in Calgary, something that Calgary Economic Development admits is a disappointment.

The online retailer announced on Thursday that only one Canadian city, Toronto, had made the shortlist of metropolitan areas that could potentially host the company’s second North American headquarters, called HQ2.

Calgary Economic Development president and CEO Mary Moran said staffers are upset the city didn’t make the cut.

“Obviously we’re really disappointed. There was a lot of effort put in by a lot of Calgarians – not just our organization – so we’re definitely disappointed, but certainly wish Toronto luck.”

READ MORE: Calgary launches ‘Hey Amazon’ chalk campaign in Seattle ahead of HQ2 bid

Story continues below advertisement

Asked why she thought Calgary wasn’t selected for the shortlist, Morgan pointed to the need for a stronger labour pool in the tech sector.

“I think what we’re not necessarily set up for is the economy of tomorrow. So whether it’s Amazon or Google or Microsoft, everybody’s trying to figure out how to digitize all the industrial sectors and I think we don’t necessarily have the right talent.”

Moran said she thinks Calgary has the “engineers of yesterday, not tomorrow.”

Those thoughts were echoed by tech software company Benevity’s Vivian Farris, who said finding skilled tech workers is a challenge. The company is responsible for workplace giving, volunteering and grant-making software.

“There isn’t that much great talent here. We’re always looking for technology folks to join our team, ” she said.

“It is a challenge to find strong technology talent… when we’re looking for top talent… we are looking at Vancouver, Toronto and pretty much across the country to bring to Calgary to join our team.”

Farris said she would like to see more education and investments for the tech industry in Calgary.

WATCH: Calgary has lost its bid to host Amazon’s second North American headquarters. Doug Vaessen spoke with Calgary Economic Development president and CEO Mary Moran about the news.

Click to play video 'Calgary Economic Development responds to loss of HQ2 bid' Calgary Economic Development responds to loss of HQ2 bid
Calgary Economic Development responds to loss of HQ2 bid – Jan 18, 2018

In total, Amazon reviewed 238 proposals from cities across North America including Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver, narrowing it down to a list of 20 that will move on to the next phase of the process.

Story continues below advertisement

“Getting from 238 to 20 was very tough,” Amazon spokesperson Holly Sullivan said in a Thursday news release. “All the proposals showed tremendous enthusiasm and creativity.”

“Through this process we learned about many new communities across North America that we will consider as locations for future infrastructure investment and job creation.”

Moran admitted she was surprised which cities made the final cut, pointing out how overcrowded they are.

“We thought with a million people, they wanted a non-congested city,” she said.

Amazon is promising up to 50,000 high paying jobs and a US$5-billion investment for the city that becomes home to HQ2.

READ MORE: New Amazon warehouse facility to open in southern Alberta

Moran said she still feels Calgary Economic Development’s ‘Hey Amazon’ guerrilla marketing campaign launched in October was effective.

“We’re shortlisted for other large companies coming here – as well as some other smaller companies that are looking at Calgary because it’s prime for the picking right now,” Moran said. “So what we have to demonstrate is that we have to continue to evolve our talent pool and I think that would be the biggest thing for us to focus on.”

Story continues below advertisement

Although Calgary will not be home to Amazon’s second North American headquarters, the company is building a new warehouse facility north of the city.

Amazon announced in October it would be opening a new fulfillment centre in the Balzac area in Rocky View County, saying it had leased an existing space while a new custom warehouse is built on a 42-acre site nearby.

The new facility is expected to be completed sometime this year and will be the size of six city blocks.

Rocky View County had said the new fulfilment centre will create a number of construction-related jobs in the short term, while in the long term the facility will bring 750 full-time jobs to the county with even more seasonal positions.

Notley says loss of Calgary HQ2 bid means Alberta must continue to focus on diversification

Speaking to reporters on Thursday, Alberta Premier Rachel Notley said learning of Calgary’s lost HQ2 bid was “disappointing.”

“They did say that the bid … was very exciting and they actually said very, very good things about it,” she said.

“They said that they’ve got a whole new idea of Alberta, and that Calgary did an excellent job. So I just really want to thank both [Calgary and Edmonton] for the work that they did on those bids.”
Story continues below advertisement

“This is a learning moment for us as well to continue our work in diversification, to understand that whether oil is up or oil is down we need to actually put real work and action behind the talk of diversification, and that’s something our government is very committed to doing.”

“There’s no question it’s unfortunate,” she added. “It would have been great to have gotten that deal.”

WATCH: Rachel Notley responds to Amazon not naming Calgary or Edmonton as a possible destination for its second North American headquarters.

Click to play video '‘It was obviously disappointing news’: Premier Rachel on Amazon HQ2 decision' ‘It was obviously disappointing news’: Premier Rachel on Amazon HQ2 decision
‘It was obviously disappointing news’: Premier Rachel on Amazon HQ2 decision – Jan 18, 2018

Notley said diversification is an issue her government has been tackling since she was elected to the premier’s office in 2015. But she said Calgarians shouldn’t expect to turn a corner overnight.

“There’s been a number of things that we’ve done,” she told 770 CHQR’s Angela Kokott. “We’ve had a number of different tax incentives we’ve put in place, a number of different ways in which to provide access to capital for new and innovative businesses.”

Story continues below advertisement

She said her government has also continued to invest in education, from kindergarten to post-secondary institutions.

“Ensuring that our post-secondary is not sort of lurching back and forth, trying to maintain basic services as their funding comes and goes, comes and goes and is under constant threat,” she said.

“So, the work is underway, but you can’t suddenly create those graduates in two-and-a-half years.”

WATCH: Angela Kokott talks to Premier Rachel Notley after learning Calgary is not being considered for Amazon’s second headquarters.