The list of business advantages in Waterloo Region is long and growing and no secret to the expanding roster of successful companies that call the region home.
Waterloo is among the fastest-growing communities in Canada, a region built on collaboration, innovation, and entrepreneurism. It has the second-highest density of start-ups in the world, along with the headquarters or development offices of some of the world’s largest high-tech, automotive, advanced manufacturing and aerospace companies.
Often dubbed the SiliconValley of the North, the region is home to five $1 billion-plus evaluated companies, including OpenText, BlackBerry and Kik, a deep and well-connected innovation ecosystem, and a patent granted per capita rate almost four times higher than the Canadian average.
So, why all this success?
Education & Talent
The region produces top talent in business, IT, engineering, professional services and technical and skilled trades at three top-ranked post-secondary institutions that have pioneered the co-op education model adopted around the world.
The University of Waterloo has been named Canada’s most innovative university 26 years in a row, has launched some of the country’s largest technology companies and is home
to the largest post-secondary co- op program in science, technology, engineering and math in the world.
Wilfrid Laurier University offers the largest business degree co-op program in Canada and is ranked No. 1 in student satisfaction.
Conestoga College is a leader in polytechnic education, provides Ontario’s only college-based, accredited engineering degrees and is home to the Institute of Food Processing Technology, a crucial economic sector in the region and country.
Waterloo was Canada’s fastest growing tech talent market for the second year in a row in 2017, increasing its talent pool by nearly 66 per in the last five years and adding 8,400 tech jobs. It was the second- fastest growing market in North America, behind only Charlotte, North Carolina.
Waterloo has tremendous geographic advantages, including its location along Hwy 401 and direct access to more than 150 million customers within a 12-hour drive. Waterloo is home to an international airport and is an hour’s drive from Toronto Pearson International Airport and the country’s biggest air cargo hub at Hamilton International Airport. It is also within a two to three-hour drive of six border crossings and close to ports in both Hamilton and Toronto.
Waterloo is at the heart of the Toronto-Waterloo Corridor, a stretch of 112 kilometres of talent, growth, and discovery that is the second-largest innovation supercluster in North America. The corridor has been a continental leader in the attraction of foreign capital investment.
Investors understand that Waterloo offers compelling cost advantages in securing talent (with lower ICT labour costs than in the U.S., U.K., France, Italy, Germany, Netherlands and Japan) and purchasing or leasing real estate over other North America innovation hubs.As well, companies based in Ontario enjoy the lowest overall business costs in the G7, spend 32 per cent less in corporate taxes than counterparts in the United States and can access a wide range of tax and R&D incentives.
Business and Innovation Ecosystem
The Waterloo Economic Development Corporation (WaterlooEDC) is an independent, not-for-profit organization with a lengthy list of services, programs and resources for companies looking to locate or expand in the region.Those include a world-renowned two-year Accelerator Program, extensive start-up supports, and mentorship programs.
Other central players in the region’s innovation network are: Communitech, which was founded in 1997 by a group of Waterloo entrepreneurs aiming to raise the profile of the local tech community and has grown into a celebrated innovation centre supporting more than 1,000 companies;Velocity, a leading entrepreneurship program at the University of Waterloo and the largest free start-up incubator in the world, offering a student dorm, workspaces in Waterloo region, events, mentor programs and seed funding; the Waterloo Small Business Centre, which links business professionals with entrepreneurs to provide business planning advice and direction, regardless of industry sector or stage of business development.
Along with a deep talent pool, the region has a strong selection of competitively priced, fully serviced and zoned sites for companies of any size.
A huge part of Waterloo’s success comes from the diversification of its economy, as it has built and attracted global players in business and financial services, manufacturing and information and communications technology.
Manufacturing accounts for about one-fifth of all economic value created in Waterloo and its highly diversified advanced manufacturing sector of more than 40 producers generates close to $6 billion annually in fields including automation, robotics, automotive, aerospace, food processing, plastics and fabricated metals.
The region offers access to more than 150 leading research facilities and networks, such as the Centre for Smart Manufacturing, the Manufacturing Innovation Network, the Centre for Advanced Materials Joining, the Centre for Automotive Research, the Institute for Polymer Research, and the Waterloo Institute for Nanotechnology.
If that’s not enough, Catalyst137 offers 450,000 square feet – the largest of its kind – of co-working space and show- floor environments for high-growth manufacturing scale-ups.
Waterloo has earned a reputation as a global leader and the heart of ICT innovation in Canada. That includes everything from big data, embedded security, autotech and artificial intelligence to quantum and nanotechnology.
Quality of Life
Waterloo Region is comprised of the three cities of Kitchener, Waterloo and Cambridge and the surrounding four townships.With a population of 575,000 in 2015,Waterloo Region is the fourth-most populated census metropolitan area in Ontario and 10th largest in all of Canada.
Waterloo offers an unparalleled quality of life, combining urban amenities with a relaxed, small- town vibe.The region is served by extensive public transportation and road infrastructure. Residents enjoy a 16-minute median commute time, much less than half that in the GTA. There are ever-increasing two-way commuter options to Toronto.
Home prices are 30 per cent lower than the provincial average (and roughly half that of the GTA), with a range of housing that includes interesting adaptive reuse of warehouses and factories, new urban condos, as well as both suburban and rural homes just minutes away from employment centres.
Waterloo also boasts vibrant arts and culture, sports and outdoor recreation activities and events. The community is built around than 3,000 acres of parks, six conservation areas and the beauty of the stunning Grand River.
Read the full Perspective Waterloo feature here.