Economy and growing business top priorities in Calgary, survey finds

FILE: Downtown Calgary.
FILE: Downtown Calgary. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

Business, or the lack thereof, is top of mind in Calgary, a recent survey showed.

In surveys conducted for the University of Calgary’s School of Public Policy and the Calgary Chamber of Commerce, business growth is shown as a priority in Calgary.

The survey — conducted by Forum Research — asked Calgary businesses to describe the most important issue facing the city. The economy and growing business was the number one response.

When citizens were asked about which issues were most important to them, recruiting new businesses to Calgary was the third-most important, behind policing and transportation infrastructure.

READ MORE: Plunging Calgary office values linked to high oil and gas unemployment

“One thing that’s striking is that there is not a lot of distance between the business community and the general public.

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“As we see it on this survey, in terms of the priority they place on growing the local economy, recruiting new businesses, and some other priorities as well,” report author Jack Lucas told Global News. “So there’s certainly some concern that we can see in the survey of businesses about the property tax issue, but there’s also a lot of shared agreement about the priorities.”

The survey showed relief from growing business taxes was the third-highest priority for Calgary businesses.

Calgary’s downtown vacancy rate of 26.4 per cent (as of 2018 year-end) and resulting drop of $192 million in business tax revenue spurred Calgary city council to look at increasing business tax rates outside the core. The city decided to cap those taxes at 10 per cent and plans on looking at other options to reduce that number.

READ MORE: Calgary businesses encouraged by new city budget

“Calgary business leaders have made it clear they are raring to grow but need governments to create and sustain the right conditions to drive investment and expansion,” Calgary Chamber president and CEO Sandip Lalli said in a statement.

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The chamber of commerce is expected to release its provincial election policy platform later this week, making the case that governments at all levels are restricting the competitiveness of Calgary businesses.

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“Recruiting businesses in Calgary and growing the business footprint in Calgary is not an area where there’s any disagreement between the general public and the business community,” Lucas told Ryan Jespersen on 630 CHED.

“That’s important in terms of policy making that city council and I’m pretty sure city council is probably aware of that already.”

–with files from Tomasia DaSilva, Carolyn Kury de Castillo and the Canadian Press

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