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5 Charts: Waterloo vs. Detroit

5 charts that compare Waterloo's technology ecosystem − talent, real estate costs, research and more - to Detroit, Michigan.

We often compare Waterloo’s exceptional tech credentials to other major cities in Canada like Toronto and Montreal, and major US tech hubs like Silicon Valley and New York, where the vast majority of tech investment has traditionally landed.

What we haven’t really dug into – until now – is how our ecosystem stacks up against smaller US tech markets that are showing undeniable momentum, like Austin, Pittsburgh, ColumbusSalt Lake City and are now ready to take on Detroit.. We’ve scored our data and are going head-to-head with tech markets across the United States.

You guessed it – the friendly competition continues!

Editor’s note: This is part of a Waterloo EDC series called “5 Charts: Waterloo Versus” that compares our community with some of America’s top tech hubs, including Austin, TexasPittsburgh, PennsylvaniaColumbus, OhioPhoenix, Arizona and Detroit, Michigan.

Matchup #5: Waterloo, Canada vs. Detroit, Michigan

Waterloo and Detroit’s similarities make for a good matchup. We both have a strong manufacturing industry and a rapidly growing tech workforce as well as a relatively low cost of living.

Quick Facts:

*Source: CBRE Scoring Tech Talent, 2023

Round One: Tech Talent Density

Source: CBRE Scoring Tech Talent, 2023

Waterloo continues to lead regarding tech talent density, beating Detroit, as well as  Austin, Pittsburgh and Columbus.

There are a few factors in play that contribute to this impressive density.

With Waterloo’s unmatched ecosystem, talent, research assets and location, the region has become the largest robotics and automation cluster in Canada, propelling it as a leader in global tech. The CBRE 2023 Scoring Tech Talent report also named Waterloo the #1 small tech talent market in Canada for the third year in a row.

Round Two: Engineering and Computer Science University Program Sizes

Sources: The University of Waterloo and University of Michigan at Ann Arbor

UWaterloo is a globally competitive tech university with one of the top computer science and engineering programs in Canada. On a global scale, the university has been ranked within the top 30 schools for engineering.

The university is also home to the world’s largest co-operative education program, meaning that students graduate with up to two years of relevant industry experience. With cutting edge programming opportunities and leading co-op experiences, it’s no wonder that Waterloo can compete with the best and biggest.

UWaterloo is the top tech university in Canada so to keep it equitable, we chose to compare UWaterloo to the top tech university in Michigan, the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor.

Round Three: Research Output (0-100 scale)

Source: QS University Rankings, 2023

Waterloo is home to a number of top research centres and business incubators, so it’s no surprise that the region is leading the way citations per faculty. Waterloo continues to uphold its global reputation as we climb the way up the QS World University Rankings 2023, ascending 42 spots from the previous year.

This impressive feat reflects Waterloo’s dynamic environment, where cutting-edge research and collaboration thrive, solidifying its reputation as a global leader in tech.

Round Four: Rent

Source: CBRE Scoring Tech Talent, 2023

Waterloo comes out on top again.

Finding that perfect working space for a reasonable price is a daunting task in most communities. In Waterloo, it’s possible to find a space that supports your company’s expansion plans while realizing a significant cost savings.

With our signature sites page, you can explore the wide variety of real estate options available in Waterloo. From manufacturing facilities to office space, Waterloo has it all.

Round Five: Tech Salaries

Source: ERI Salary Assessor, 2024

Waterloo wins this round again! But don’t think that the quality of our talent is any less – our high-quality talent at a lower cost is a core aspect of Waterloo’s value proposition. In fact, CBRE announced that Waterloo was the #1 small tech talent market in 2023 for the third year in a row.

Waterloo has significant advantages in talent, research productivity and cost compared to Detroit. Yes, we are proud of our community, but the numbers speak for themselves.

Summarizing success

In the race between Waterloo and Detroit, Waterloo emerges as the clear winner across multiple key metrics. This success can be attributed to several factors, including the presence of one of Canada’s top technology schools, UWaterloo, business-friendly immigration programs and ability to maintain innovation and talent.

Let’s summarize the results of the match-up:

  1. Waterloo has a higher concentration of tech talent than Detroit.
  2. UWaterloo’s tech programs have much higher enrollment than the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor.
  3. UWaterloo had more citations per faculty than the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor.
  4. Detroit had lower renting costs than Waterloo.
  5. On average, tech salaries are higher in Detroit than in Waterloo.

For companies considering business expansion, Waterloo is a compelling and strategic choice, offering a winning combination of innovation, talent and economic advantages.

Want to learn more about Waterloo's incredible tech ecosystem?