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Assessment of Calgary CMA and the SAIT Trades and Technology Complex
Shaminder Parmar

ABSTRACT This document contains a comparison of Calgary CMA and Vancouver CMA and the two regions industrial, occupational, and demographic structure. It will then assess the SAIT Trades and Technology complex within the context of regional economic development.

Part 1 CMA Characteristics: With a population of 1,079,310, Calgary Census Metropolitan Area is the 5th most populous CMA in Canada. It includes the cities of Calgary and Airdrie, towns of Chestermere, Cochrane and Crossfield, villages of Beiseker and Irricana, Regional Municipality of Rocky View, as well as the Tsuu Tina Nation. Calgary CMAs borders encompass 5,107.43 km2 of land (Statistics Canada, 2012). Its large land area contributes to its low population density of 211.3 residents/km2 (Statistics Canada, 2012). Its low population density can be further explained by analyzing the densities of areas that people are residing in. The percentage of population residing in high-density areas is just 1%, while 64% live in lowdensity areas (Statistics Canada, 2012). Vancouver CMA, in comparison, has a population of 2,116,581 (ranking it as the 3rd most populous), and includes 21 municipal governments and an unincorporated area, the most populated municipality being the City of Vancouver (Statistics Canada, 2012). The CMA has an area of 2,877.36 km2 and population density of 735.6 residents/km2 is almost 3 times higher than that of Calgarys (Statistics Canada, 2012). This statistic is supported by the fact that 8% of Vancouver CMA residents live in high-density areas, with 38% residing in low-density areas (Statistics Canada, 2012). Population Characteristics: In Calgary CMA, the 35-44 year old age demographic has the largest percentage of people (28.2%) who have attained a university certificate, diploma or degree (Statistics Canada, 2012). Vancouver CMAs 35-44-year age demographic is also its most highly educated in terms of formal education, with 29.7% of those who have attained a university certificate, diploma or degree (Statistics Canada, 2012). In terms of its population characteristics, Calgary CMA contains a smaller population share of foreign-born peoples

(23.42%)

and

visible

minority

peoples (22.23%) as well, while Vancouver (39.60%) CMAs and foreign-born minority

visible

(41.72%) population shares are larger (Statistics Canada, 2012). Industry Structure: There are several plausible explanations for the large disparities in

immigrant and minority populations between the two CMAs, Vancouvers history as a port for immigrants is the most well known (Statistics Canada, 2012). However Vancouver CMAs total of 232,410 workers in the information and cultural industries, educational services, and health care and social assistance industries help attract a diverse range of immigrants that most-often require a large network of social services and educational

programs to help ingratiate them into their new society (Statistics Canada, 2012). Calgary CMA,

however, contains just 111,175 workers in these industries, which is comparable to Vancouver CMA in percentage terms, but in terms of absolute number of workers in those

industries, Vancouver CMA holds the edge. Calgary CMA, however, has close to 10 times more workers in the mining and oil and gas extraction industry than Vancouver CMA (Statistics Canada, 2012). This industry has allowed Albertas economy to prosper, ever since oil companies started to expand their influence to the Alberta oil sands. The revenue that the Provincial Government of Alberta receives from royalties on oil extraction, has allowed them to discontinue provincial taxes on consumer spending (PST). Companies have also established industrial centres in Calgary CMA, allowing the creation of high-paying jobs. Vancouver CMA lacks such a prolific, high-revenue niche industry. The high median family income in Calgary CMA ($82,363.00) compared to that of Vancouver CMAs ($69,686.00) is linked, in part, to the explained industry structure (Statistics Canada, 2012). Occupational Structure: When comparing the two CMAs it is clear that Calgary CMA offers a larger share of natural and applied sciences and related occupations, trades, transport and equipment operators and related occupations, and business, finance and administration occupations; while Vancouver CMA offers a noticeably larger share in art, culture and sport (Statistics Canada, 2012).

Source: Statistics Canada, 2012

Part 2 In 2006, Western Economic Diversification Canada gave the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology $9 million to plan and design the Trades and Technology Complex (SAIT, 2012), a centre to be used for research and development, testing of new equipment, forming industry linkages, and employing the local student population. The Centre was designed to have laboratories that contained only the latest equipment and technologies in order to attract companies to innovate, design, and test new products, while also allowing SAIT students to participate in this process, making them more marketable and employable to the attracted companies. After the project was deemed viable, Western Economic Diversification Canada, SAIT C.E.O., Irene Lewis, and other private interest groups, initiated a period of fundraising for the project (which, at the time, was estimated to cost $400 million) (Calgary Herald, 2012). In September 2008, the Government of Alberta agreed to deliver $300 million in funding to the project. However, it was still essential that the project secure an additional $100 million in funding commitments before allowing construction of the complex to begin. SAIT alumni and private companies were at the forefront of this fundraising effort. Donors making up the outstanding $100 million included companies (such as Cenovus Energy Centre, which donated $3 million), alumni (such as John and Cheryl Aldred, who donated $15 million), and even companies run by alumni (including donations from David Johnson and Murray Cobbe, of the Johnson-Cobbe Energy Centre) 87% of the $100 million was made by private individuals (SAIT, 2012). With the $400 million in funding secured, construction of the complex began in September of 2009 (SAIT, 2012). The 740,000-square-foot facility, complete with an industrial scale lab, 25-ton crane, environmental containment system, high current and voltage power

systems, wet lab, facilities for biofuel production and analysis, metal preparation, water treatment technology advancement, and other high-tech labs designed for controlledenvironment testing, officially opened its doors to students and companies on September 5th, 2012 (SAIT, 2012). The complex is now composed of three buildings (the Aldred Centre, Johnson-Cobbe Energy Centre, Cenovus Energy Centre, Enerplus Innovation Centre (housed within the Aldred Centre), which are named after prominent donors (SAIT, 2012). In attempting to understand the perceived benefits that a project such as this would propose, we must first establish a short profile of the actors involved. Western Economic Diversification Canada is at the forefront of ensuring that western provinces pursue innovation, business development, and community economic development (Western Economic Diversification Canada, 2012). The organization aims to facilitate the creation of innovative and creative industries that promote diversification and even specialization of industry in order to make the west more competitive on a national and global scale. Irene Lewis, former Chief Executive Officer of SAIT, wanted to oversee the schools largest expansion in its 95-year history (SAIT, 2012), while giving SAIT students a competitive edge within Calgary CMAs trades and technology-oriented marketplace. The companies, mostly energy and technologies related, were important in funding the project. It is apparent that much of the testing facilities within the complex are geared towards use for these types of companies. Heavy drill simulators, high-ceiling labs, and various other attributes will allow these companies to test their products and gain a competitive edge over their rivals in other regions. The government of Alberta, the final major actor, likely understands that their investment in facilities that will attract companies, create jobs, and form industry linkages, is essential in creating and growing a competitive, innovative, and modernized regional economy. Although we often see at least some community

and citizen opposition to such large-scale government funded projects (such as the proposed Edmonton Arena District improvement) (Speak Up Edmonton, 2012), the broad level of support from the school community, private actors, the government, and regional facilitators of economic growth, there has been little to no opposition to the construction of the Trades and Technology complex. In terms of the projects perceived benefits, the impacts are likely to be broad ranging. Some scholars would suggest that large-scale projects often only economically benefit the elite and investors (Eisinger, 2002), however, because of the agreement that companies would test/innovate projects along side SAIT students, it is clear that the local population of students will benefit immensely as well (in the form of developing industry-ready graduates). Because the school is public, and open to the entire local population, benefits will be received by anyone who enrolls within SAITs programs. According to Harrison & Glasmeier (1997), the main barrier of economic development is a population with limited skills and skill-types. With the construction of the Trades and Technology complex, Calgary CMA will be able to continue its position as a regional economic powerhouse, by developing a young population of skilled labourers, who are at the forefront of constant innovation and technological improvements (Harrison & Glasmeier, 1997). As testing facilities continue to open within the complex, companies will potentially be able to build centres in the region, leading to networks of industry linkages. The community profile of the region also shows that the region lags in attracting immigrant populations. So the construction of the complex (which will help support the economy without necessarily having to attract many immigrant workers) is the right step for the region, based on its current community profile.

However, in order for the City of Calgary, and its surrounding region, to become a globally competitive city of the future, it will have to focus on developing its cultural aspects. Eventually, the region, in order to grow its population, will have to build a vibrant urban atmosphere that diverse job seekers and are attracted to (Florida, 2002, p. 256). Richard Florida (2002) argues that there is a strong correlation between economic development and a city that has emphasized its cultural aspects. Calgary CMA has demonstrated, in the community profile and the occupational structure, which the arts and culture sectors are not as developed as more globally renowned regions such as Vancouver (Statistics Canada, 2006). Calgary, however, is growing at a rapid rate in terms of its population, with appropriate planning and development of arts and culture, innovation and diversity will help fuel an already dominant regional economy. Proponents of the project and economic observers have argued that the Alberta region is the economic engine for Canada and SAIT is providing the skilled people needed to drive that engine (Calgary Herald, 2012). However, when understanding Calgary CMAs community profile, it is clear that the Trades and Technology complex at SAIT will not necessarily propel the region to be able to compete on a long-term basis. In order to be capable of this, it must eventually adopt policies and a motivation to develop arts, culture, and an atmosphere that attracts skilled immigrants who bring diversity and innovation to a city.

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