When the world market price for oil is high, the economy of Edmonton booms. Unfortunately, when oil slumps, Edmonton’s economy always follows suit. The dominance of the oil industry makes the local economy a constant and often agonizing boom-or-bust ride.
City leaders want to put Edmonton on a more even economic keel. Ending the agonizing feast-or-famine cycle means greater economic diversification.
In short, Edmonton must stop placing all its eggs in one fossil fuel basket and create new ways to generate jobs and wealth
To this end, the government of Alberta has issued a series of grants with the goal of identifying other business models that could thrive in this vast western Canadian province.
Just what those other entrepreneurial models might be makes for constant debate. Experts point out that agriculture has long been the traditional anchor of a strong economy, so bolstering farmers, farming and agribusiness industry may be a key piece of the puzzle.
Another area of interest is high tech development. Alberta will allocate $90 million in tax credits to lure high tech players to Edmonton (and other locales), and to incentivize homegrown tech start-ups.
The energy sector itself is still considered a central way forward, except in this case it means encouraging non-fossil fuel alternatives, such as building more wind and solar into the infrastructure. Increased natural gas power plant use and construction is also a major part of a diversified energy plan.
In a place where coal and oil have long been dominant, the fact that city and provincial leaders are considering alternative energy development scenarios is a significant sign that developers are serious about change.
While alternative energy ventures are risky and expensive, the potential for a high payoff is considerable. Analysts say the renewable and sustainable energy sector could attract $10 billion in investment and as many as 7,200 jobs.
Yet another popular idea is to invest in the film industry. Other locations in Canada, especially British Columbia, are raking in millions from Hollywood studios and other venues in the entertainment industry.
The Edmonton area thinks it could get a larger cut of the entertainment pie with more attractive public grants and tax incentives for film makers to make movies here.