By the Numbers

Population: 877,926
Population growth rate (2011-2015): 12%
Residential tax rate (mills): 5.5
Non-residential tax rate (mills): 15.1
Median home price: $419,000

OK, Alberta – it’s time to have a talk with Edmonton. There’s some tension in the air, no doubt. Albertans outside Edmonton envy the capital city for its lower unemployment rate, its resilient job market (including all those public-sector positions) and its steady real-estate prices, among other indicators. On the other hand, the Edmonton-area oil-and-gas workers who were laid off in the oil-price collapse envy you for inclusion in the recent EI changes. Can’t we all just get along?

The bottom line is that Edmonton won our Best Communities for Business list not because it’s exceptional. Really, it’s not. Are Edmonton’s tax rates competitive? Barely. Does it have explosive population growth? Nope – it’s less than one quarter of Cochrane’s. Even its EI-prohibiting unemployment rate, at 6.2 per cent, isn’t the lowest in the province (Lethbridge makes Edmonton look like Fort McMurray).

So why is the capital city number one? It checked all the right boxes at just the right time. Its population growth is, for a major city, incredibly promising. Developments continue to spring up – in last year’s edition, we talked up Blatchford Field, the former home of City Centre Airport. But 2016-17 will see the opening of Rogers Place, the downtown Brewery District and the new Grant MacEwan University Centre for Arts and Culture – and that’s all within just a dozen blocks. All of these projects will increase quality of life and economic prospects for the city.

The city’s employment rate is one of Alberta’s highest. Its median residential home price is more than $70,000 less than Calgary’s (and extraordinarily less than Fort McMurray’s, Parkland County’s and the MD of Foothills’s) and its population is relatively young. Its median annual household income is on the verge of $100,000. And a recent ThinkHQ poll found that Edmonton left Calgary in the dust when it comes to affordability and economic strength. Meanwhile, a report from the United Nations – heard of ‘em? – lauded the Beaver Hills region east of the city, where delicate wetlands and wildlife habitats co-exist with two petrochemical complexes, for its balancing of economic and environmental concerns.

Edmonton was the winner of 2016’s Best Communities for Business because, in an economic climate like today’s, stability, perseverance and modesty are admirable ambitions. And it’s got a brand-new world-class hockey rink, too. Now that’s something to bring all Albertans together.