Startups and technology giants transforming Kitchener-Waterloo
"Our community is rich and intelligent, "says the mayor of Waterloo
There was a time when many young and aspiring professionals had to leave Kitchener-Waterloo for better opportunities. However, this is certainly no longer the case.
You see, the region is now home to dozens of technology startups and large technology companies that are creating jobs and fueling growth at all levels. Businesses here are also successful and are making massive advances in artificial intelligence, IoT (Internet of Things), drones, smart marketing, space manufacturing, bionics, not to mention wearables.
Earlier this year, Google opened its Kitchener space and pledged $ 2.1 million to its science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) programs for youth in the area. BlackBerry Limited (formerly known as Research in Motion) is headquartered in Waterloo and recently reported revenue of $ 1.309 billion.
We Are Waterloo, a division of economic development support, points out that startups and technology giants are employing more than 30,000 technology professionals, and what's even more interesting is that Kitchener-Waterloo's technology landscape is now the second market that more grows throughout the North. America, just behind Charlotte, North Carolina.
"It's all" technological "here, for sure," says Christina Hackett, a local company that runs a popular vape shop in Waterloo.
She is only in her twenties, has her own place, and likes not having to move to another city to secure work.
"I have a full-time job, thanks to all technology companies, "she explains. "Our area is now a huge technological center that is creating endless opportunities. I am very happy to work where I was born and raised. It's a great place and everyone is very friendly. Even the nightlife is fun now and this has never been a case. "
In Kitchener, Lisa McDonald, who operates The Sign Depot, says the technology boom is very positive news.
"We do signals, all types and technology companies also need them, "she laughs. "In recent years, we've definitely seen an increase in business with all new technology ventures opening up. We love this and the locals too: the big boom that is happening right now is impressive to the local economy. "
With a population of more than 500,000, Kitchener-Waterloo is growing rapidly and the area is only an hour's drive from downtown Toronto. Both cities, which have separate municipal governments, are located in the Regional Town of Waterloo. The region also consists of Cambridge and the districts of Wellesley, Woolwich, Wilmot and North Dumfries.
Kitchener-Waterloo has been a unique community. The western area and the Mennonite lands were settled by people with a German background from Pennsylvania, and the southern and river areas still resemble the Scottish-Celtic traditions of the colonists for more than a century.
"Our community is rich and intelligent," says Waterloo Mayor Dave Jaworsky. "Waterloo is the Canadian city of education," as we have three well-known higher education institutions here – the University of Waterloo, Wilfrid Laurier University and Conestoga College – which offer world-class programs. Each year, hundreds of students graduating from these institutions and technology companies recognize that they have access to a dynamic pool of talent. "
Jaworsky says growth is happening fast here. Next spring, the region will have its own Light Rail Transit (LRT) system, which will move more people efficiently, and Uptown Waterloo will see more condominiums set up.
"Uptown is going to see some changes and it's for the better.We are building and not out, we are going to step up and we will not be spreading.Your Uptown will be very compact and will provide accessibility for everyone, and the urban landscape will include LED lighting that can be changed for special occasions , as well as the lighting of the CN Tower. "
Waterloo has recently been awarded the Gold Level Community Cycle Community Designation of the Road Cycling Coalition and the city has already secured the Global Network of Designation of Age-Friendly Cities of the World Health Organization (WHO).
"Waterloo is a special place and has a lot to offer people of all ages," says Jaworsky. "It's a dynamic place and people are in the real world and it's a place that encourages lifelong learning that has helped reinvent who we are as a city."
Berry Vrbanovic, who is the mayor of Kitchener, is also excited to see all the growth going on.
"Our area has been blessed to have three incredible post-secondary institutions and this is playing an important role in helping shape the continually evolving technology and innovation sectors," says Vrbanovic.
He says development in Kitchener is happening because of all the new technology companies that are changing. Many of the abandoned industrial buildings and warehouses are being transformed into offices for new business.
"The recession crushed our manufacturing industry, but it was a blessing in disguise," he explains. "We are now embracing the technological trend and moving in a whole new direction … we are thriving and we want it to continue. The more companies we have here, the more jobs and this is great for the economy. "
Vrbanovic emphasizes that the issue of transport should be a priority for all and dealt with quickly. Currently, there are four GO trains departing in the morning to Toronto and four trains coming back at night.
"We need more GO trains to and from Toronto," he says. "I even like the idea of a high-speed railroad. Once our transportation problems are resolved, then it will mark the Kitchener-Waterloo-Toronto corridor as Canada's Silicon Valley. "
Both mayors emphasize that living here is also a lot of fun.
The region houses tons of craft breweries and distilleries, cafes, restaurants, farmers' markets and live theater and performances all year round. The area also offers many bike and hiking trails for those who enjoy outdoor activities as well as sports and recreational facilities.
Some of the great notable events include the Octoberfest Kitchener-Waterloo, a nine-day annual festival that is considered the second largest in the world. Then there is the TD Kitchener Blues Festival and the Uptown Waterloo Jazz Festival. Throughout the year, the city hosts many cultural events, and hometown pride is alive and well in every Kitchener Rangers home game.
"The quality of life here is great and you have so many great choices, "says Vrbanovic. "Our LRT will soon give you a ride and there is no shortage of things to do."
Jaworsky echoes his vision. "Here you can have an urban experience or a rural experience – it's the best of both worlds that is affordable compared to other GTA cities. Our region is a great place and that is why our population is growing. We offer an excellent quality of life and we are in the same street of Toronto. "