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Amazon to Edmonton or Calgary?

Amazon to Edmonton or Calgary?

Posted on: 9/15/2017 | Author: ATB Financial's Economics + Research Team

Amazon announced last week that it was going to accept bids from all large metropolitan areas in North America to set up its next office. The winning proposal will receive an investment of $5 billion and 50,000 new jobs over the next twenty years. Should Amazon look at Edmonton or Calgary for its next office?

In Amazon’s callout, they list some key preferences and decision drivers. One of the most important drivers has to do with the labour force. We know Alberta has struggled over the past couple of years, but our labour force is improving now. When we look at that growth over the past decade, Alberta is an absolute winner. Since 2007, total employment has grown by about 15 per cent; you’d be hard-pressed to find that kind of growth across all of North America.

But of course, Amazon is a company that requires specific types of labour, that’s where both Edmonton and Calgary can offer something that other cities may not be able to. In Alberta, about one in nine people are related to professional, scientific and technical services as well as information, culture and recreation, that’s slightly above the national average. On top of that, Alberta is emerging as a leader when it comes to the world of artificial intelligence and machine learning. The Computer Science Rankings places the University of Alberta in Edmonton third globally in this category.

There’s also a community or quality of life component to Amazon’s decision. Amazon “[wants] to invest in a community where our employees will enjoy living, recreational opportunities, educational opportunities, and an overall high quality of life.” We know that both Edmonton and Calgary are both able to meet these needs. Both cities have great post-secondary institutions, thriving arts and culture scenes and housing is much cheaper than Vancouver or Toronto. The proximity to the Rockies also makes for a great quality of life.

Amazon has a tough task ahead. Picking just one city will prove difficult, but a Canadian city might just make sense. Aside from being cheaper, Alberta’s labour market, the cost of living and high quality of life could be enough to convince Amazon to set up shop in Edmonton or Calgary.


Alberta total employment, graph?

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