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Mapped: North America’s top creative industries clusters

What are the top creative industries clusters in North America? We've used location quotient data to identify the continent's highest density communities.

When we wrote our edition of “Mapped” that focused on business services, we said that great businesses always need great business support.

At the time, we meant consultants, agencies, legal and accounting support. But there’s another class of support that doesn’t get covered in business services – the creative class. The designers, videographers, animators, editors and more.

As with business services, you can find graphic designers and video production services in every major community. Photographers, too. Animators are harder to find. You dramatically increase your chances at finding creative support in communities with a high creative industries density.

How do you find a strong creative industries cluster?

Site selectors use something called location quotient (LQ). In really simple terms, LQ compares an industry’s share of employment in an individual community with the national average. We’ve taken LQ measurements of North America’s top creative services communities to figure out a) whether there are any surprises and b) which ecosystems have the strongest clusters.

This article is part of a series that looks at the highest-density clusters in North America. This series will include entries on technology, advanced manufacturing, business services, life sciences, finance and insurance, and food and beverage.

Here are North America’s top large and mid-sized creative industries clusters:

Top Creative Industries Clusters in North America


What are you seeing?

If the circle is green, it’s a “true” cluster. If it’s red, then a cluster effect isn’t evident. The circle size is representative of total cluster employment – the bigger the circle, the more employees. As you can see, a community can have high employment in a particular industry but NOT be a cluster.

Who sticks out for creative industries concentration?

Those you’d expect, mostly. We have big-time creative centres like Los Angeles – Hollywood – and Vancouver in the west, and Toronto and Montreal in the east. Gaming and software likely helps along Seattle and San Jose, which both achieve “true cluster” status. Well, there aren’t a lot of true clusters. The oddities are New York and Boston, especially considering the former’s reputation for film.

When we zoom in on the Toronto-Waterloo Corridor we see all green, which is a trend in this series. Again, this is probably due to the fact that Canada’s population is clustered in a smaller number of communities – we don’t have that many big cities to spread these highly-specialized jobs across. However, it’s important to note that Toronto is a massive hotbed of film production, and communities like Hamilton and Waterloo get their fair share of exposure to Hollywood, too. In other words, this isn’t a fluke.

With that said, here are the top 5 large creative industries clusters in North America – defined as high LQ communities with total cluster employment over 25,000:

  1. Vancouver – LQ = 1.988 – Total Cluster Employment: 49,950
  2. Montreal – LQ = 1.936 – Total Cluster Employment: 79,255
  3. Toronto – LQ = 1.741 – Total Cluster Employment: 137,095
  4. San Jose – LQ = 1.461 – Total Cluster Employment: 67,843
  5. Seattle – LQ = 1.109 – Total Cluster Employment: 91,800

Here are the top 5 mid-size creative industries clusters in North America – defined as high LQ communities with total cluster employment under 20,000:

  1. Ottawa – LQ = 1.615 – Total Cluster Employment: 22,470
  2. Oshawa – LQ = 1.591 – Total Cluster Employment: 6,240
  3. Waterloo – LQ = 1.596 – Total Cluster Employment: 8,965
  4. Quebec City – LQ = 1.396 – Total Cluster Employment: 11,885
  5. Hamilton – LQ = 1.234 – Total Cluster Employment: 9,310
Want to learn more?

Waterloo EDC has comparative LQ data for communities across North America for multiple industries, including technology, advanced manufacturing, life sciences and more. We’re happy to help your company make an informed expansion decision.