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Ottawa’s Tech Market and Government Industry

Ottawa is Canada’s capital, an energetic city of more than one million people located in Ontario on the Quebec border. It’s a place where English and French entwine; a place where you can discover Canada’s proud heritage at impressive national sites. In summer, visit one of a thousand parks or explore over 200 square kilometers of protected greenspace. In winter, enjoy a beavertail in the historical Market or skate the largest naturally frozen rink, the Rideau Canal (a UNESCO World Heritage Site).

If the cold isn’t your thing, hop on the LRT, Ottawa’s brand-new light rail transportation system and take a tour of the Parliament buildings. Perched high on a cliff overlooking the Ottawa River, these buildings have long represented not only our house of Government but our primary industry. Ottawa is the epitome of a ‘government town,’ with the Feds acting as a juggernaut when it comes to housing, real estate, and, most especially, employment since its creation in 1867.

But that’s changing.

These days, Ottawa is home to more than 1,750 of the best and fastest-growing tech companies in Canada. Not only are these companies raising more money in the public market than any other Canadian city, but they are also swallowing up Ottawa’s labor pool with the industry employing more than 68,500 people. In 2019 alone, the Information and Communications Technology Council predicted over 10,000 tech jobs would need to be filled. And these positions are diverse, spanning seven key industries: Aerospace, Defence and Security, Clean Technologies, Communications Technologies, Digital Media, Life Sciences, and Software.

The attractiveness of Ottawa as a tech talent hub was also the subject of a report released from real estate services firm CBRE. Ottawa came in second in the national report, which ranks cities based on metrics such as the availability of talent, the quality of labor, and gross operating costs. Ottawa again tops the country in terms of talent concentration, with 9.9 % of the capital’s labor force working in tech. Ottawa’s talent market separates itself from the pack in terms of education. Two of every five employees aged 25 to 64 in the capital’s labor force hold a bachelor’s degree or higher.

Programs that link the private sector with post-secondary institutions play a leading role in preparing students for a job in the tech sector. According to Sonya Shorey, vice president of marketing and communications at Invest Ottawa:

We have an incredible base of talent — both new and emerging talent from our post-secondary institutions in Ottawa. They ensure that we have a pipeline of talent that is well prepared to meet the needs of the industry sectors. That the talent pool is also diverse in terms of culture, experience, and levels of expertise, only adds to the draw for many companies.

The potential for growth the city’s Tech Market might best be illustrated by Ottawa’s e-commerce superstar, Shopify. Launched more than a decade ago as an online snowboard shop, Shopify has since bloomed into a global e-commerce platform used by more than one million merchants. They employ over a thousand people in Ottawa alone. However, that is not to say Ottawa is not diversified – the city also hosts multinational giants like Nokia, Ericsson, IBM, Cisco Systems, and Adobe.

Ottawa’s proximity to the federal government along with the communications technology infrastructure research that happens here is causing more and more IT-based companies from around the world chose to locate major research and development installations here; Ottawa’s tech dominance seems likely to continue well into the future.

Kristine LemireOttawa’s Tech Market and Government Industry
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