The Region of Waterloo’s tech industry is growing faster than officials predicted.
During Friday’s 2022 State of the Region address, the CEO of Communitech said his company had previously projected the local tech industry would reach 24,000 workers by 2025. It surpassed that milestone in 2021, four years earlier than they expected.
Chris Albinson said the region now has over 26,000 tech workers.
“Big tech out of China, out of the United States, is just not trusted right now,” he told CTV News. “Canada’s brand is trust. We can be the place where trust is built right into technology.”
According to Albinson, last year $3.2 billion was invested in companies Communitech works with, which is as much as what was invested in local tech over the last 14 years.
Albinson feels a big draw for the region is the different tech opportunities available, coupled with a less expensive cost of living compared to areas like San Francisco.
“We’re really privileged to be the second largest innovation hub on the planet now,” he said. “The fastest growing by four times. I think, as that gets more widely known, we’re going to attract more and more great talent. Our core focus is building the talent that we’ve got here and the amazing companies that are being built here.”
Albinson also noted a number of local groups that tackled advanced healthcare throughout the pandemic, including 15 partners who pivoted to making PPE.
According to Albinson, the most innovative hospitals in Canada spend about $40 billion a year, with most of it going south of the border. He believes there is an opportunity coming out of the pandemic to grow Canadian healthcare through technology.
“We need to have better supply, better innovation here. I think the exciting thing is also that we have it here. The trick really was connecting it.”
Work is also being done with local officials to improve housing opportunities in the region to avoid any negative impacts that a tech boom could have, according to Albinson. He told CTV News that he plans on visiting San Francisco in the near future to learn more about what the region can do differently.
Meanwhile regional chair Karen Redman said growth “must be smart” and sustainable.
“The region is working towards this with our partners in many sectors,” she continued.
Markus Moos, an urban planning professor at the University of Waterloo said gentrification of central areas is possible if the tech industry keeps booming.
“There are implications of this growth in terms of housing affordability that particularly lower income earners and lower income renters are affected by,” said Moos.
JOINING THE BOOM
Andrea Miller took on a position as managing editor at Axonify, a Waterloo-based software company, in January 2022.
“All of the things I was looking for have come to fruition,” Miller said.
Miller moved to Kitchener-Waterloo during the pandemic after living in Toronto for a decade. She said she left her job with media behind as she’s always been interested in joining the tech sector.
“The amount of opportunities in KW. I was pretty blown away by and also there were so many thriving companies that I didn’t even know existed,” said Miller.
Miller said she has no regrets and loves her new job.
Axonify recently received second place on the list of Best Workplaces in Canadato (100-999 employees).
The Greater Kitchener-Waterloo Chamber of Commerce hosted it Business Excellence Awards Gala on Thursday and Axonify was present to receive an award for employee engagement.