Waterloo region's tech talent fastest growing in Canada: report

A report from the real estate and investment firm CBRE Group says Waterloo region is the fastest growing market for tech talent in the country.

Region's tech industry one of the best in Canada and 'a major engine of innovation,' says investment firm

A group of innovators work inside a meeting room at Communitech in Kitchener. (Amanda Grant/CBC News)

In five years, the tech talent market in Waterloo region has grown by almost two-thirds and is one of the fastest growing markets in the country, a new report says.

Between 2011 and 2016, the region added 8,400 tech jobs, a 65.6 per cent growth rate, the Scoring Canadian Tech Talent Report released Thursday from the real estate and investment firm CBRE Group said.

In a ranking of 10 cities, Waterloo region placed fifth, up from eighth last year.

"Waterloo region continues to show its strength as one of Canada's top tech markets and a major engine of innovation for the Canadian economy," CBRE Canada's executive managing director Paul Morassutti said in a release.

"Not only is it the fastest growing over the five-year period, it is also the fastest growing market year-over-year, adding 5,600 jobs alone in 2016, an increase of almost a third in a single year."

The growth doesn't surprise Todd Cooney, vice president and a broker at CBRE Limited who is based in Kitchener.

"Take a look at the energy and the sense of community here. You have companies that are working together to solve problems, your mentors aren't too far," he said.

"You take a look at the incubators that have fed some of the top companies in the region and that organic growth – you're seeing a lot of things you typically wouldn't see in major metros."

Toronto on top

The success comes "even after the fall of Blackberry," said Cooney, because the region has seen a "clustering" of high tech companies remain here. People who left Blackberry didn't have to go very far.

"Take a look at D2L, you take a look at now Shopify who's adding 300 to 500 jobs over the next two to three years, Axonify with Carol Leman's company – phenomenal growth rate," he said.

"And they're able to pick the talent tool locally and find the right pieces to the puzzle to help their companies grow."

For the second year, Toronto remained top for tech talent, followed by Ottawa, Vancouver and Montreal.

The rankings are based on 14 metrics, including the supply of tech talent, growth, completed degrees, market and industry outlook as well as apartment rent cost.

Each city is given a score out of 100. Toronto's score was 81.6. Waterloo region's score was 58.5.