In the life of a community, too much of a good thing can be as bad as too little. The city of Edmonton lies close to one of the largest oil deposits on Earth, which have created a foundation for prosperity but saddled the community with major challenges as well. The resource boom has swelled the population while creating housing shortages, homelessness and a range of social ills. And the oil business is one of booms and busts. At a time when the world is struggling toward a low-carbon future, it does not offer the community the kind of sustainable future that its leaders envision.
To create a new economy on top of the oil-driven present, Edmonton has built the infrastructure of the new century and engaged its institutions in translating it into a new source of prosperity. The city’s downtown is richly endowed with optical fiber and offers new facilities connections in 3-4 weeks. The Alberta SuperNet provides public institutions with the high-speed backbone needed for research, telemedicine and cloud services. Extensive wireless throughout public spaces carries more than 50 Gb of data traffic weekly.
Turning Knowledge into Commerce
In a city with five major post-secondary institutions serving 100,000 students, public-private organizations work to turn knowledge into commerce. The TEC Edmonton accelerator has helped young companies raise $160 million in financing, generate $310 million in revenue and employ 1,800 people in the region. Startup Edmonton is now doing the same for early-stage firms. For those outside the digital economy, the public library offers a range of services from education on child-raising to help with employment, medical care, housing and addiction support. Digital literacy training and its vast array of computers and tablets make the library not only a place to find support but a place to connect as well.
Master Plan for a Sustainable Future
The city has created a 10-year master plan, “The Way Ahead,” that embeds intelligence into plans for housing developments, expansion of transit, greater sustainability and better financial planning. Forced by landfill closures to find alternatives, Edmonton now recycles or composts 60% of residential waste and sends another 30% to its new biofuels plant. Its latest mixed-use developments aim to be among the most energy-efficient in North America. For Edmonton, it is not enough to build a beautiful city full of citizens who think like entrepreneurs and neighbors. Edmonton wants to lead North America in GDP growth – no matter what price the world puts on a barrel of oil.
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