Innovative workers in Calgary “…we have that maverick attitude!”

May 13, 2011

Remember that article that I mentioned in early February that I co-authored with Langford and Li? Well, its finally published in City, Culture and Society. Again, this is a culmination of the work conducted between 2006 and 2008 on the attraction and retention of innovative workers in the Calgary CMA and its part of the Innovation Systems Research Network major collaborative research project (SSHRC funded).  I have been part of this research group since the early 2000’s, starting out in Saskatoon and working on the Saskatoon Agricultural Biotechnology Cluster.  The work in Calgary, and this piece in particular, explores innovative workers’ attitudes about the resource-based city in which they pursue a career (Calgary is an oil & gas dominated economy). The article reports on 28 factors of attraction and retention of creative talent in Calgary studied in the years 2006–2008. The data were drawn from interviewees responses to questions about attitudes toward the city as a place to work and about possible moves to alternative locations, in the context of a study of the social dynamics of innovation from the city perspective.

The main lesson

 from this study and our observations is this: motives are complex, revealing individual patterns of thought. It appears that a balance of personal factors and individual perceptions determines each interviewee’s overall expressed attitude about attraction and retention in the CMA.

Excerpts of quotes by interviewees:

“[For artists], we really have that maverick Calgary attitude… of ‘let’s just do it!’ That is unique to Calgary.”

“…it’s the boom – it’s the boom philosophy, the pioneering spirit… we try, we will! We do have an abundance of heart in this town…corporate support… citizen support… “

“It’s all about keeping your relationships open in Calgary. If you’re a little bit of an extrovert and you’re smart, you should have no problem networking yourself into never having to worry about work.”

“Calgary is a place where there is an opportunity for anyone. That said, I think that the scale of urban growth is causing a divergence… causing a gulf between the rich and the poor…homelessness is the paradox of prosperity. The economically and socially disenfranchised can’t keep up with the increasing costs…”

I wonder if Mayor Nenshi (will read this? He had a hand in cluster work out in Eastern Canada and when he was at Harvard, I believe…

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