Since the heydays of RIM, Toronto continues to rapidly grow on the global radar as a hotspot for tech talent. In just a year, the city has outpaced San Francisco and New York combined in tech growth. Earlier this week, Google’s city-building sister company’ Sidewalk Labs announced its plans to develop an entire tech-focused neighbourhood, The Quayside, along Toronto’s waterfront.
Today marks the deadline for North American cities to wrap up their proposals for Amazon’s new HQ2. The new $5-billion headquarters is projected to employ 50,000 people and Toronto has been amongst the frontrunners for the bid. The city’s main appeal is its strong and growing pool of diverse talent, backed by well-funded STEM post-secondary education and forward-thinking immigration policies.
Yesterday, the Ontario government announced that it would commit $30-million to increase the number of artificial intelligence graduates to support the growing tech industry and woo Amazon. The province is partnering with the Vector Institute to boost the number of STEM graduates by 25% each year within the next five years, while aiming to graduate 1,000 AI-related masters students per year. This program will help to position Toronto as the #1 producer of STEM post-secondary graduates per capita in North America. The $30-million initiative to the Vector Institute over the next three years is on top of the $50 million already committed to the Institute earlier this year.
In addition to growing local talent, Canada has taken an approach opposite to the stance of the neighboring Americans. While Trump has been pulling the reins on the expedited visa program (he claims it was being exploited by companies trying to bring in low-cost foreign workers), Canada has introduced expedited visa processes. Process times for visas and short-term work permits are now as short as two weeks, giving local startups a competitive edge by allowing them faster access to skilled workers. Canada’s continued dedication to fostering global talent will continue to diversify the workforce and bring unique global perspectives to help grow local organizations.
Ed Clark, the man leading Ontario’s bid for Amazon’s new headquarters claims that the tech giant could save as much as $1.5-billion per year. Thanks to the strong US dollar and universal health care, Amazon could hire top-quality talent for a competitive cost. “That’s an edge the government is determined not only to maintain but to sharpen,” said Clark.
Canada’s recent changes to fast track visas and investment of funds towards post-secondary STEM graduates work in tandem. Both initiatives will help to grow Toronto as the future hub for tech talent, continuing to entice large companies like Amazon to open shop in the city and GTA.
[Update: Oct 19] Interested in reading Toronto’s official proposal to Amazon? You can here it here.