Toronto still top for tech but smaller cities are gaining

by Steve Randall27 Nov 2019

The technology sector is booming, bringing largely quality, well-paying jobs to the cities that can claim to be tech hubs.

In Canada, Toronto remains the tech talent leader according to a new report from global real estate firm CBRE; but smaller cities are showing good growth in the sector too.

CBRE’s Scoring Canadian Tech Talent Report puts Ottawa, Vancouver, Waterloo Region and Montreal in its top 5, but they are some way behind Toronto.

Climbers include Victoria (7th) climbed three spots and Oshawa (12th) rose by two, the largest year-over-year improvements in the 2019 rankings.

There were also gains for Hamilton (9th) and Guelph (13th) which recorded the fastest tech job growth among mid-sized and small tech talent markets.

Edmonton moved saw tech jobs gain 26% in the past 5 years, which moves it into the top 10.

“Although Canada’s major markets have deep pools of tech talent and are globally competitive, the competition for office space is fierce and tech tenants are having to be decisive and creative when it comes to their real estate. Mid- and small-sized markets are gathering major momentum, because they offer tech firms greater availability of office space, operational cost savings, and untapped talent pools,” said CBRE Canada Vice Chairman Paul Morassutti.

How the markets fared
CBRE’s analysis of 20 Canadian cities is based on 13 metrics to measure each market’s depth, vitality and attractiveness to tech employers and potential employees, including availability of talent, quality of labour and gross operating costs; weighted to reflect the importance placed on them by companies seeking tech talent.

Here’s some of the results based on several key metrics:

  • Tech labour concentration: Tech labour concentration is an influential factor in ranking how “tech” a market is and what its growth potential might be. Ottawa has a 9.9% concentration of tech workers, nearly double the Canadian average of 5.3% and only slightly behind San Francisco’s North America-leading 10.0%. Also of note, Waterloo Region and Quebec City, which represent a combined 5.8% of the Canadian tech landscape, are punching above their weight with tech concentrations that are comparable to those of Toronto and Montreal.
  • Quality of labour: Labour is by far the largest expense for most firms, particularly those seeking tech talent, therefore the quality of that talent is crucial. The top five Canadian tech talent cities are also those that produce the highest number of tech graduates. Montreal has three of the top 10 university computer science programs and produces the highest volume of tech graduates, followed by Toronto, Vancouver, Waterloo Region and Ottawa. Halifax (No. 11 in the overall Tech Talent ranking) and Edmonton each produce over 1,000 tech degrees annually.
  • Cost to operate: Combining wage and real estate costs offers insight into what a tech firm might pay to operate in a city. Calgary, Edmonton and Ottawa have the highest combined rent and wage costs, at more than $40 million per year. Most affordable of all are Moncton (No. 20 in the overall Tech Talent ranking), Quebec City (No. 8) and London (No. 14). Montreal is the most cost-competitive of Canada’s large tech centres.

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