Calgary is staking its claim to be Canada's city of headquarters, with the number of head offices based in Calgary doubling between 2002 and 2011. The city has the highest number of headquarters per capita in all of Canada and is home to about one in seven of Canada’s major corporate headquarters.

At least 123 of those headquarters based in Calgary report annual revenues of $100m or more, largely because Calgary is an energy city. While scores of businesses involved in chemicals, food, engineering and transportation also have chosen Calgary for their head offices, those related to energy dominate. In fact, 105 of those headquarters are energy related. Among the biggest companies are Suncor Energy, Imperial Oil, Enbridge, Husky Energy and Cenovus Energy.

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“Calgary’s proximity to a highly valuable natural resource and its easy access to key international markets are responsible for making it an industry capital unlike any other in Canada,” said F Bruce Graham, Calgary Economic Development president and chief executive.

Other important strengths are Calgary’s personal and corporate tax advantages, quality of life, developed business and financial services sector, educated labour pool and thriving energy sector.

Indeed, Alberta has one of the most competitive tax environments in North America and is the only province without a provincial retail sales tax. There are no provincial capital or payroll taxes, which are common in many other provinces and US states. The combined federal/provincial corporate income tax rate is 25% for general businesses and 14% for small businesses, and a competitive corporate tax rate is in place for manufacturers. Calgary’s residential property taxes are the lowest of any major Canadian city.

Calgary’s labour force is pegged as the most productive in Canada. The city is home to five tertiary institutions, including two major universities. 

Calgary was recently ranked by Maclean’s magazine as one of Canada’s most cultural cities, as well as the most active and one of the top three smartest cities. Its proximity to the Rocky Mountains, green spaces and the most extensive urban bikeway in North America contribute to this ranking.

Calgary’s infrastructure also factors well. Two of the largest highways in North America intersect in Calgary, and Calgary International Airport is tied with Montreal as the third busiest in the country serving 12 million travellers a year.

Despite its pluses, the fact Calgary is dominated by energy companies creates challenges. Calgary’s fortunes often rise and fall with the price of oil and gas. The energy sector also pays high wages that companies in other sectors may not be able to meet.