Location and history
Located in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, Calgary sits on the Canadian prairie, at the confluence of the Bow and Elbow Rivers. Two major highways systems also intersect there: the Trans-Canada east-west highway and the CANAMEX Corridor, which runs north-south, linking Canada and Mexico. It is the largest city in the western province of Alberta, and the fourth largest in the country.
The city is 848 sq.km/327 sq.mi and is surrounded by 19 distinct municipalities and jurisdictions. Outside the metropolitan area lies plenty of open space - room for recreation and expansion. And it has grown rapidly, leading the nation in both total population growth (26.1 %) and average annual growth (27 %) in the decade between 1998 and 2007. More recent growth has been modest.
Originating as a small police post in 1883, the following year Calgary began enjoying the benefit of the new Canadian Pacific Railway. It became incorporated that year, 1884, and became an official city in 1893.
The discovery of oil in the early 1900s would shape the city's future but would not spur demographic and economic growth for another 40 years. In the 1970s, during the Arab Oil Embargo, Calgary's oil became critical and the city prospered and grew further.
The majority of Canada's energy company headquarters are located there. Yet its rapidly expanding economy has diversified far beyond its traditional strength. Technology, manufacturing, financial services, transportation and logistics, tourism, film and creative industries have all vaulted Calgary's international reputation from one of a cowboy oil town to one of diverse innovation. In 1988 Calgary hosted the Olympic Winter Games.
The rough economic seas of the past few years have touched every city in Canada, and while some have experienced extreme swells and dips, others have had a smoother ride. Calgarians have been relatively lucky - the city has remained a vibrant, attractive destination for businesses and residents alike.
Calgary's vitality could be attributed to its young population. With an average age of 35, Calgary residents are among the most entrepreneurial in Canada. The city's workforce has the highest productivity and participation rates in the country, and trend-watchers predict that, even in the face of a volatile economy, the city will continue to grow.
In fact, Calgary Economic Development continues to report that the city is still growing (although more slowly), with healthy job prospects, high average weekly earnings, continued construction, and investment in long-term projects.
Quality of life
When the workday is over, Calgarians have plenty of options when it comes to leisure time, the city boasts a network of bicycle paths and trails, and over 8,000 hectares of parks and open spaces offer a way to escape without leaving the city. The mountains, with their resort towns, ski hills, and hiking trails are just a short drive away.
Calgary's vibrant arts scene includes local theaters, opera, a philharmonic, literary and film festivals, and major concerts. Areas like Kensington and Uptown 17th Avenue are host to an array of boutiques and restaurants. A recent $200 million expansion of one of the city's flagship malls, Chinook Centre, included the opening of western Canada's first Apple store.
Calgarians benefit from a low tax regime: the province of Alberta has no municipal sales tax, provincial sales or provincial general capital tax, and has one of the lowest provincial corporate tax rates in Canada (10%). Alberta is the only Canadian province to have a flat personal income tax rate (10%). All other Canadian provinces work on a sliding income scale.
The area is 'high and dry' - big, blue-sky country - and has four distinct seasons with an average annual snowfall of only 135 cm. The city is warmed by the Chinooks, the dry winds which blow off the Rocky Mountains (just 60 minutes away) and can raise a winter day's temperature by over 20°C/68°F in a matter of hours.
Newcomers will find that opportunities abound for work and play here - something Calgarians have known for years.