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Q&A: Shelby Woodall on Finding Your Company’s Home in Waterloo

We’re taking a deep dive into the world of real estate and site selection with Shelby Woodall, Business Development Advisor at Waterloo EDC.

Choosing the right location for expansion can be difficult. Companies can find it challenging navigating new markets in an unknown city.

By leveraging local expertise companies will gain a unique competitive advantage as they are able to better understand the types of real estate available.

We spoke to Business Development Advisor Shelby Woodall about what makes Waterloo Region an ideal location for expansion and how Waterloo EDC can help facilitate the process.

Shelby Woodall Headshot

Q: How does Waterloo EDC help foster business growth in the region?

Waterloo EDC acts as a one-stop concierge service for companies looking to locate in Waterloo, Canada. How I like to explain Waterloo EDC’s role is that we help companies seamlessly fit into the Waterloo ecosystem.

We do this by identifying the challenges a company is facing and what they’re looking to get out of an expansion. Once we know this, we act like a matchmaker and work to provide them with the data, real estate options, services and introductions that would be most beneficial to them.

We also help companies increase their local presence by highlighting them in our marketing materials, such as blogs and cluster maps.

Q: What type of companies gravitate toward Waterloo? What real estate options are available for them? 

WOODALL: Waterloo is really appealing to robotics and other advanced manufacturing companies. We have a unique blend of manufacturing and tech talent, supported by the University of Waterloo and Conestoga College, that really allows this industry to thrive.

We have a lot of homegrown startups and scale-ups in this space too, which helps create a well-rounded ecosystem. We have a lot of unique spaces for robotics and advanced manufacturing companies here in Waterloo. It really boils down to what a company’s processes are and the space and zoning requirements.

For example, David Johnston Research + Technology Park is a good option for a company looking for office and light industrial space located near the University of Waterloo and Wilfrid Laurier University.

If a company’s looking for more space for manufacturing and warehousing, I would usually recommend exploring our industrial parks in Cambridge, such as iPort Cambridge. This is a great area located right off highway 401 and close to companies such as Toyota as well as Conestoga College’s Skilled Trades Campus.

Q: How do you help companies narrow down their options for expansion?

WOODALL: I’m always available to share information on Waterloo and our ecosystem here as well as comparable data, when available, for other shortlisted locations. We facilitate (and encourage!) site visits. A site visit can help a company better understand what’s available in Waterloo and how they fit in here.

We’re always happy to set up a site visit to show a company the Waterloo community, check out some real estate options, tour our local post-secondary campuses, and more, depending on the company’s interests.

In terms of real estate, I can provide a list of sites that fit the requirements, set up tours and make introductions to local realtors and/or developers.

Q: Waterloo EDC recently updated its Signature Sites page. Why is it a valuable tool for companies looking to expand in Waterloo?

WOODALL: The Signature Sites page on our website is really meant to highlight some of the amazing real estate options in the community. This page showcases a mix of office, industrial and co-working spaces, so there should be something there for most companies. It’s by no means exhaustive but it is a good first place to look.

I would recommend a company check out the Signature Sites page first and then get in contact with me to discuss what they’re looking for and what did or didn’t check the boxes. There are many other sites out there and I’m more than happy to set up a meeting with some local realtors and/or developers to discuss site flexibility and options.

Q: What often surprises people when you tell them about Waterloo?

WOODALL: Companies are always surprised at the amount and quality of talent here. We have a well established tech and manufacturing workforce and students travelling from all over the world to come study at our post-secondary institutions. The prevalence of the co-op program means that even new graduates have tons of diverse work experience and have already created a massive network for themselves.

Waterloo is also a great place to call home. It’s a growing and well-connected community and, between the three cities and four townships, there’s always something to do, whether you’re a family or a young professional.

We’re also right off of Highway 401, so it’s quick and easy to travel outside the region to visit Toronto, Collingwood, Niagara Falls, Grand Bend, etc.

Q: What excites you about economic development and working at Waterloo EDC?

WOODALL: Economic development excites me because it’s multifaceted. We can’t just look at job creation, we need to understand the programming at educational institutions, housing demand and supply, transit to get people to these jobs, industrial land supply, and so much more. There’s no one-size-fits-all in economic development and I think that’s what makes it so fun and fulfilling.

I was drawn to Waterloo EDC because I already had a passion for both Waterloo and economic development – it just seemed like the obvious next step! Now I get to spend my time promoting Waterloo and learning more about everything this amazing community has to offer.

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