Waterloo is a special place for tech. It has unique tech credentials that places it among North America’s most dynamic tech hubs. It’s home to Canada’s three fastest-growing tech businesses and a globally renowned top tech university, as well as multinational businesses like Google, SAP and Faire.
Yes, we are proud of our hometown.
That said, the ace up Waterloo’s sleeve is one we don’t write about nearly enough. Here it is: we’re right next door to North America’s 4th largest city – Toronto – and all of the incredible communities surrounding it. All told, we’re talking about a population of more than seven million people, which equals the Bay Area.
When you put Toronto, Waterloo and all of these communities together you get the Toronto-Waterloo Corridor, which is not only one of the primary drivers of Canada’s economy, but it compares favourably to some of the world’s biggest economic regions.
Here are five things you need to know about the Toronto-Waterloo Corridor:
1. One of the world's largest tech clusters
The Toronto-Waterloo Corridor is the largest tech cluster in North America outside of Silicon Valley. It’s bigger than Boston, New York or Seattle. It’s far larger than other tech hubs like Pittsburgh or Columbus.
Canada doesn’t do much on an American scale, but the Toronto-Waterloo Corridor is an exception.
The area is home to more than 15,000 tech companies, including 5,000+ startups, and nearly 300,000 employees in high-tech industries. About two-thirds of those employees are classified as “tech workers,” which includes programmers, developers, etc. With 8% of the total workforce employed in tech, the Toronto-Waterloo Corridor also has a similar talent density to Silicon Valley and a much greater density than New York, Boston or Seattle.
2. Talent for growing businesses
Speaking of workforce, the Toronto-Waterloo Corridor has an exceptional talent pipeline, with 423,000 students across 16 post-secondary institutions. It isn’t just about sheer volume, though. Within the Corridor we have Canada’s largest engineering school, two of Canada’s top three computer science programs, a half-dozen business schools (including three of the top five in Canada) and the world’s largest co-operative education program (co-op). Co-op is an integrated experiential work program on steroids where students gain 2+ years of real world experience while earning an undergraduate degree.
Talent shouldn’t just be measured on post-secondary output. Experienced workforce growth is also important because it highlights a region’s ability to attract talent. In CBRE’s most recent North American Scoring Tech Talent report, they highlighted the fact that Toronto is the fastest-growing tech talent market in North America among bigger urban centres. In their section on “opportunity markets” – smaller centres that have the capacity for significant growth – they listed two Corridor communities (Waterloo and Hamilton) in the top three.
Our talent pipeline and ability to attract experienced talent from around the world are the reasons why major tech companies like Google, Shopify, IBM, SAP, Ubisoft and Oracle have chosen to locate here.
3. A perfect location for B2C and B2B
Since the Toronto-Waterloo Corridor is such a tight-knit region (just 112km/70mi across and 105km/65mi from Waterloo to Toronto) the whole area shares the strategic location benefits that we often herald in Waterloo. For example, the Corridor is almost directly in the middle of America’s Eastern Seaboard and Midwest, which means equally convenient connections to New York City, Boston and Chicago, as well as burgeoning tech hubs like Detroit, Columbus and Pittsburgh. For B2C companies that means access to 150+ million consumers within one-day of driving.
Right in the middle of the Corridor is Toronto Pearson International Airport – the largest airport in Canada and one of the busiest international travel hubs in North America. This one airport serves more passengers than Boston and Silicon Valley combined. It’s also one of four international airports within the Corridor, which combine to offer 38 daily flights to New York City, 10 daily flights to Boston and a dozen daily flights to California.
Last but not least, the Corridor is connected by Canada’s largest superhighway and regional rail network. Over the next few years, various governments will spend hundreds of millions of dollars to expand rail service throughout the Corridor.
4. Diversity that makes us all stronger
This is one factor that really sets the Corridor apart. Toronto is well-known as one of the most diverse and international cities on the planet. Canada is well-known as one of the world’s most welcoming countries, with one of the world’s best tech-related work permit/visa programs. As a result, more than 40% of the Corridor’s residents are foreign-born. Here’s how that compares to major cities/regions in the United States:
Our universities have also put an emphasis on international talent. For example, approximately 20% of the University of Waterloo’s undergraduate students, and 40% of their graduate students, are from outside of Canada. You’ll find a similar story at many of the Corridor’s 16 post-secondary institutions.
In Canada, we celebrate diversity in all forms, thinking of ourselves as a multicultural mosaic.
5. Opportunities for businesses of all shapes and sizes
Here’s the big one for businesses. The biggest differentiator between the Toronto-Waterloo Corridor and similar ecosystems across North America is our business diversity.
Toronto is a global-scale finance and business hub. In the communities surrounding Toronto you’ll find a mix of finance, tech and manufacturing (as well as decreasing real estate costs). Further out, you’ll find more substantial warehousing and manufacturing. In Waterloo, you’ll find a world-class tech hub, Canada’s largest robotics and automation cluster and a substantial manufacturing community that includes Toyota’s largest Canadian plant.
The diversity of this ecosystem, in terms of business types, sizes, industries and costs is unmatched in North America. Whatever your business does, one of the Corridor’s communities is likely the perfect landing spot for an expansion.
Do you want to learn more about the Toronto-Waterloo Corridor? Contact the Waterloo EDC team!
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