Toronto-area mayors on New York mission to ramp up GTA tech scene

John Tory will be joined by the mayors of Brampton and Mississauga and the regional chairs of Durham and York on a Toronto promotion blitz in New York City over the next two days

The mayors will be in New York on a promotional blitz over the next two days

Talent, good quality of life, and less rigid immigration policies are Tory's selling points. (CBC)

We have talent, good quality of life, and less rigid immigration policies.

That's the message Mayor John Tory says he will be selling in New York this week as he tries to attract tech and innovation focused businesses to the Greater Toronto Area.

Tory will be joined by Brampton Mayor Linda Jeffrey and Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie and the regional chairs of Durham and York on a promotion blitz over the next two days. A visit to Sidewalk Labs — Google's sister company building a tech-centred neighbourhood on Toronto's waterfront — a round table discussion and a reception with tech businesses are all on the schedule.

"Every now and then we're going to want mayors and chairs to meet with companies who are either in the final stages or seriously considering a relocation," the CEO of Global Toronto, Toby Lennox said.

"It's very helpful to have a mayor or chair to sit down and describe the assets of their own municipality."

Toronto Global is a new agency representing GTA municipalities, which was launched in February to promote the region and attract foreign direct investment.

An artist's conception of the new Toronto waterfront neighbourhood proposed by Sidewalk Labs. (Sidewalk Labs)

So what's Lennox's elevator pitch for Toronto?

"The Toronto region is perhaps the most exciting and dynamic city in North America right now. We have the talent supply, we have the quality of life, we have all the attributes that companies are looking for in order to establish their growth," he said.

New York has traditionally been a competitor for talent and industry but Tory says the plan is to change that.

"We're here really to talk to them about an alliance; which is to say that the smart people of New York, the smart people of Toronto, the financial centres that both cities represent on the east coast of North America make us a powerhouse when it comes to being in this game with the Silicon Valley." 

Tory didn't comment on the specific businesses he would be pitching to but said they were "major financial institutions, for example, looking to set up their R and D operations elsewhere."

Toronto Global CEO Toby Lennox said having mayors give face-to-face pitches about the municipalities is important. (CBC)

"The dollar gives us an advantage, the tax rates are lower so I think we have a really compelling case to make," Tory added.

Making Toronto a world-class centre for technology has always been a priority on Tory's mayoral agenda.

He lauded the decision by Sidewalk Labs to build in Toronto as a step into the future, but Tory says there is still much to be done.

"We're just going to these people and say, 'Have you thought about Toronto?' because often times, they haven't."