Calgary’s Business: Where do you think Airdrie’s economy is these days, coming off the recessions of 2015 and 2016?
Rupert: Overall, Airdrie’s economy is doing pretty good compared to many municipalities in Alberta. In 2017, Airdrie saw five per cent population growth, which takes us up to 64,922 residents. On the business growth side of things, Airdrie saw a 6.62 per cent increase of new businesses. That’s an average of approximately 42 new business licences per month last year and local businesses adding 725 new full and part-time jobs added to the community. We are fortunate in Airdrie that we don’t see major swings with the economy, but rather blips along the way. Our population growth and new business growth continues to see a steady increase from year-to-year over the past 10 to 12 years.
CB: From an economic development standpoint, what are the key things you focus on when selling Airdrie to businesses that might be looking to expand there?
Rupert: Eighty-six per cent of Airdrie businesses say it’s a good or great place to do business. There are many advantages about doing business in Airdrie. Airdrie is a regional hub for communities north of Calgary. And in fact, we see many Calgarians coming north to do their shopping and entertaining. We have over 1,400 home-based businesses and over 900 commercial/industrial businesses that have chosen to make Airdrie home.
In Airdrie, we love small businesses, are supportive of them, and are always trying to ensure that they’re heard and that we’re continuously trying to improve the process that businesses have to go through. It’s not easy starting or running a business and if we can help alleviate some of those frustrations as they go through the process, all the better.
With an average age of 32, we have a young market that has an above-average household income and with the way we’re growing, we’re always adding new customers to the mix. Being directly on the Queen Elizabeth II Hwy and 15 minutes to Stoney Trail allows great east-west and north-south connectors. Moreover, having the Calgary International Airport 15 minutes away allows you to access any markets around the world in 24 hours.
However, most importantly, Airdrie has a strong and supportive business community that’s always working to help improve the overall business atmosphere in Airdrie. We have a strong Chamber of Commerce that economic development collaborates with on a number of initiatives.
CB: What is the real estate market – both residential and commercial – like in Airdrie these days?
Rupert: The Airdrie real estate market continues to grow. With an average of eight per cent residential growth rate over the past 10 years, Airdrie is still the choice of place to live. We’re seeing continuous development in every corner of the city. Over the past number of years, we’ve seen robust growth in the multifamily market but in 2018 we’ve seen a strong comeback in the single-family product. With a good market mix of new and resale homes, people can choose the housing product that matches their lifestyle.
Airdrie continues to be one of the fastest growing communities in Canada. In 2012, Airdrie annexed over 12,640 acres of land for future growth. Much of these lands are currently being planned for, and will see both new residential and non-residential projects happening over the next number of years. In all of the existing retail and commercial areas, we’re seeing new development so that new businesses can set up shop.
CB: Do you think Airdrie will benefit, and if so how, from the commercial boom in the Balzac area?
Rupert: With all the new growth in north Calgary and new development in the Balzac area, Airdrie continues to see strong growth. In fact, 81 per cent of Airdrie businesses expect to hire or maintain staff over the next year and 77 per cent stated that they have no challenges in recruiting or retaining staff.
Some of the challenges in the rural areas is getting their employees to and from their workplace. In Airdrie, we have an excellent local busing service that continues to grow. Also with 45-plus per cent of Airdrie’s residents working outside the community and with 25 per cent of the Airdrie workforce coming out of Calgary into Airdrie, the Airdrie ICE bus service allows mobility to and from Calgary.
I would say that the Balzac retail area has been good for many local Airdrie businesses as many Calgarians now come north of the city and end up checking many of our restaurants, some that have been nationally recognized like Hayloft and 1st and Vine, and some of our unique retail shops.
CB: Are there any particular industries Airdrie is focused on in terms of attracting them to the community?
Rupert: Airdrie economic development is currently finishing a 10-year economic strategy. This strategy will propel the city forward. It will identify Airdrie’s unique sense of place and act as a catalyst for a vibrant entrepreneurial climate that Airdrie has always been known for.
By working with the community, our partners, the development industry and internal departments, we will set forth on a new direction that will focus on new industries and continually re-evaluating the needs of businesses and how business is being done with new technologies.
In 2018, we will be reviewing our sector strategy to ensure it aligns with how we want to see Airdrie grow and the types of jobs our current and new residents are looking for.
– Mario Toneguzzi
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