VTRAC’s 8 Great Tech Cities. This week’s pick, Kitchener-Waterloo Area!

The Kitchener-Waterloo Area has been gaining major traction in the IT community.  With major government initiatives, affordable living and more than 30,000 engineering undergrads, there was little debate about whether or not this special locale deserved a place on our tour of great cities.

So what has helped this one-time rural community transform into a tech haven?

Government Support
The Canadian government announced a new program called “Scale-Up Platform” that will invest $52.4 million into three tech hubs. In April 2019, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visited the area to announce that Kitchener’s Communitech will receive more than third of the Scale-Up Platform funding. The program is expected to bring together Communitech, Investment Ottawa and Toronto’s MaRS Discovery District to create an estimated 18,000 new tech jobs.

Big Players
KWA is well-known for the locally-grown giants, BlackBerry, specializing in enterprise software,  and Open Text, developing and selling enterprise inorormation management (EIM)software, which maintained their headquarters in the tech community. There are many other tech companies that are choosing to locate their businesses in KWA such as ApplyBoard, Manulife, D2OL, Vidyard, eSentire, and Kik. Beside tech giants, KWA is full of innovative scaling tech stratups gaining their presence in software development, cybersecurity or artificial intelligence, such as North that develops smart glasses that let you manage your digital life with no cell phone, Meay.ai works on cognitive app platform to assist and deliver better customer services, Miovision provides in-house and outsourced traffic data collection and advanced traffic signal operations.

Hot Tech Market
With such a diversified economy, the KWA offers a vast array of employment opportunities in the IT sector. The Waterloo region is quickly becoming an innovative center for medical technologies and many related companies are currently hiring for many roles. Some of the hottest jobs include Front- and Back-end Developers, Software Engineers, Data Scientists, UI Developers and UX Designers, Engineering Managers and CTOs. Opportunities here are not limited to senior positions either. Many companies are also seeking out junior talent from  graduated students and through the robust amount of local co-op programs. In such an up-and-coming community, jobs aren’t restricted to IT though.  There are numerous jobs in Finance, Business Development, and Marketing , such as Investment Specialists, Mobile Mortgage Specialists, Financial Advisors, Sr. Finance Directors,  Product Managers, Marketing Coordinators, VP Marketing & Communications and many others.

Talent Pool
KWA is a home of one of the fastest-growing tech talent markets in Canada.  The University of Waterloo has more than 30,000 undergraduates in the engineering program alone. Students at Waterloo have an option to finish co-op program which gives them an opportunity to graduate from university with up to two years of work experience. The Waterloo area also offers a diverse network of communities that work towards common goals. For example, Velocity is a leading entrepreneurship program at the University of Waterloo which is also one of the most productive start-up incubators. Students can find hands-on knowledge, tools, spaces and network provided by the university. Communitech is another tech community at KWA that provides support, mentorship and guidance to those who have only an idea.

Cost of Living
Waterloo region is an affordable place to live. The cost of living in KWA is 47.08% less than in GTA. The difference in rent prices alone is staggering: In Kitchener you can rent a 1 bedroom apartment in the city center for $1,200 while in Toronto the price will jump up to $2,200 a month. The same thing happens to the real estate and financiers have taken notice. Investors and business owners understand that KWA offers very low purchasing and leasing alternatives than other innovative tech hubs in Canada and the U.S.

Quality of Life
KWA still carries on its rural vibe, offering a general 15 minute commute time from home to work. With the high and intense traffic, this is something that big tech cities simply cannot provide. Travelling to the GTA has also become easier due to transportation systems such as daily GO and VIA Rail services and its close proximity to HWY 401. The area offers a wide range of activities for all ages. KWA has over 20 golf courses, 3,000 acres of parkland, a lot of shopping centers and boutiques. Music and art lovers can enjoy KW Symphony or Art Gallery and have fun at THEMUSEUM. Each season the region is filled with exciting events and festivals such as Kultrun World Music Festival 2019 for music lovers or Waterloo Innovation Summit which takes place on October 1, 2019 or Canada’s UX Festival on September 16-22, 2019. Also, #MoveTheDial Stories Waterloo is worth visiting to hear stories from successful founders who will share their stories about establishing their startups.

A name like Kitchener seems pretty fitting for a city that is just cooking up the tech talent, doesn’t it? If you’re looking to get a taste of KWA’s success, contact us today. We have many exciting opportunities here.