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techsuch May 9, 2021 0 Comments

Tech sector wants ‘long-term commitment’ from Alberta after first step## Breadcrumb Trail Links 1. Local Business# Tech support from province praised as good first step; industry wants’long-term commitment’New programs announced by the UCP government earlier this week in support ofAlberta’s tech sector are being greeted with cautious optimism fromentrepreneurs who have sometimes felt their burgeoning industry is beingneglected by Premier Jason Kenney’s party.Author of the article:Amanda Stephenson•Calgary HeraldPremier Jason Kenney answered questions from reporters, from Calgary onMonday, June 29, 2020, on the plan for Alberta’s economic recovery. Photo byChris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)## Article contentNew programs announced by the UCP government earlier this week in support ofAlberta’s tech sector are being greeted with cautious optimism fromentrepreneurs who have sometimes felt their burgeoning industry is beingneglected by Premier Jason Kenney’s party.On Monday, the UCP unrolled its provincial economic recovery plan, a wide-ranging strategy to address the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, a globalrecession and the oil price crash. Included in the plan was specific supportfor Alberta’s tech sector, including the creation of a new InnovationEmployment Grant that will provide a refundable tax credit to smaller firmsthat invest in research and development, and will cost the government $60million in foregone revenue in the first year.The government will also invest $175 million over three years in the AlbertaEnterprise Corp. “to expand access to venture capital for early-stage startupcompanies,” according to the provincial strategy.## AdvertisementThis advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.## Article contentThe measures are designed to provide “a comprehensive roadmap” for makingAlberta the most competitive jurisdiction in Canada for investment in the techsector,” Justin Brattinga, spokesman for Economic Development Minister TanyaFir, said in an email. He added a complete “Tech and Innovation Approach” forAlberta is currently in development and will be part of the government’seconomic relaunch plan slated to be released in the fall.## Article contentIt all comes less than a year after the UCP government angered the province’stech entrepreneurs by cancelling a suite of targeted tax credits — includingthe Alberta Investor Tax Credit and the Digital Media Tax Credit — brought inby the previous NDP government in an effort to support the fast-growingsector. At the time, the UCP said it favoured across-the-board corporate taxcredits over sector-specific support programs, and said the NDP programs wereinefficient and plagued by red tape.## Article contentHowever, the resulting outcry from the province’s tech sector appears to havecontributed to a change of heart. In December, the government announced theestablishment of a working group tasked with finding alternatives to the taxcredits and on Monday, Kenney said he didn’t want to look back 10 years fromnow and see that the “tech train passed us by in Alberta.”“I live in the real world and we can see that there are other jurisdictionsthat have set up massive incentives,” Kenney said. “We simply have tocompete.”## AdvertisementThis advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.## Article contentSandi Gilbert, chair of the National Angel Capital Organization and managingdirector of the Calgary-based scale-up fund InterGen, said the government’sannouncement Monday is proof that “they’re listening.”“The whole (tech sector) has been feeding them these data points to help themunderstand what investment in this sector could mean to this province’sdiversification and recovery,” Gilbert said. “So I give them credit forresponding.”Gilbert, who was an advocate of the cancelled Alberta Investor Tax Credit,said while details are still vague on the UCP’s Innovation Employment Grant,it has the potential to work well, too.“If it de-risks the investment coming from the private sector, then it willwork,” Gilbert said.While Alberta’s tech sector will always be in the shadow of the much largeroil and gas industry, said Margaret Glover Campbell, COO of Calgary-based techfirm Virtual Gurus, the government may be starting to recognize thatretraining energy workers for careers in the tech sector could make a dent inthe province’s unemployment rate.“I think there’s always going to be that ‘playing the little sibling’ to oiland gas,” Glover Campbell said. “But I’m really hoping that the government islooking at a place like Waterloo and what they’ve done with their tech sectorand seeing that as a comparable to what could happen here.”Glover Campbell said the new programs announced by the government Monday maybe very helpful for small, early stage startups, while the reduction in thecorporate tax rate from 10 to eight per cent also announced Monday will bebeneficial for large firms.## AdvertisementThis advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.## Article contentHowever, she said Alberta still doesn’t have much to offer companies in themiddle stage of development such as Virtual Gurus, which has seven full-timestaff and is revenue-positive, but not profitable. (Virtual Gurus offers anonline marketplace that connects employers with freelancers and remoteworkers. The company is also launching a new Slack app called askBetty whichis meant to boost productivity by taking care of to-do lists.)Nicolas Beique, founder of Calgary-based financial payments company Helcim,which has been around for 10 years and expects to have 75 employees by the endof the year, said he was pleased to see what he views as a “shift of mindset”from a government he believes previously only cared about oil and gas.“But they (the Kenney government) have done a lot of damage to our sector inthe last year and a bit,” Beique said. “While this is a good first step,there’s a lot of work to be done to build confidence from myself and othersthat there is going to be a long-term commitment.”Beique added that while he believes the new programs could be helpful, theNDP’s programs were also helpful and tech companies suffered a loss ofmomentum when those incentives were cancelled. He said what the tech sectorneeds now is stability.“We’re less concerned about which government is in power and more about whichone is going to bring us stability,” he said. “We need to know what’savailable and what’s there, and all the uncertainty and this almost whiplashwe’re getting makes it very hard to do that.”astephenson@postmedia.comTwitter: @AmandaMsteph## Share this article in your social network

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