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Waterloo: A CBRE Profile

A profile of the Waterloo tech ecosystem, using data from CBRE's 2022 Scoring Tech Talent report.

Waterloo is on a winning streak. For the second year in a row, our region was named the #1 small tech talent market in North America by CBRE.

Earning this accolade once is an impressive achievement. Earning this accolade consecutively is nothing short of exceptional and requires further exploration. So, what propelled Waterloo to the top of the tech talent podium once again?

To find out, we analyzed CBRE’s 2022 Scoring Tech Talent report, an annual publication that ranks cities across North America based on their competitive advantages and appeal to both employers and tech talent employees. We identify the factors that elevate Waterloo above the other tech talent markets in North America.

Here is a full profile of the Waterloo tech ecosystem, using CBRE’s latest Scoring Tech Talent report:

New growth strengthens Waterloo’s stellar workforce

Waterloo remains one of the most concentrated tech talent markets in North America. Our exceptional existing workforce is steadfast, while our growing new graduate and millennial populations are spurring exciting new innovations and achievements.

  • Waterloo’s tech talent density is 9.6%. Only four other major markets – the San Francisco Bay Area, Toronto, Seattle and Ottawa – have higher densities than Waterloo.
  • Waterloo tops the charts for new graduate and millennial workforce growth. In the new graduate category, Waterloo is the only region with double-digit growth, coming in at 12.1% from 2015 to 2020. Waterloo is also the fastest growing market for millennial population growth at 20%.
  • Our region is home to 24,000 tech workers. Our exceptional workforce also pulls from more than 300,000 tech workers located in the Toronto-Waterloo Corridor.

Tech talent continues to thrive in Waterloo

Waterloo is a magnet for tech talent. Our tech ecosystem is home to the best and brightest minds, thanks to our proximity to exceptional post-secondary institutions that value innovation, creativity, and drive.

  • Waterloo graduates 3,673 tech students – 1,597 degrees in computer engineering, 1,262 in math/statistics and 814 in other tech engineering – each year from the world-renowned University of Waterloo and Conestoga College, a leading polytechnic institution.
  • From 2016 to 2020, Waterloo saw a 47% growth in total tech-related degrees.
  • Waterloo is also within 100km/65miles of 17 post-secondary institutions in the Toronto-Waterloo Corridor, most of which include numerous tech programs. 

Room to grow

In comparison to other major tech hubs across Canada and the United States, Waterloo offers substantial office rent advantages. Although remote work has increased over the past few years, office rent prices are an important factor to consider when locating, relocating or expanding your company.

  • Waterloo’s annual gross direct asking rent per square foot (SF) is $28.94 and the vacancy rate is 14.0%, according to CBRE.
  • In comparison to other Canadian tech hubs, Toronto’s gross direct asking rent per SF is $46.01 with a 13.9% vacancy rate. Montreal’s gross direct asking rent per SF is $36.20 with a 15% vacancy rate.
  • For smaller tech talent market context, Austin’s gross direct asking rent per square foot (SF) is $45.11 with a vacancy rate of 20.7%.

Low cost, high quality in Waterloo

Waterloo is an affordable place to set up shop, especially in comparison to other small tech talent markets like Columbus, Pittsburgh and Austin. Plus, Waterloo continues to offer exceptional value when it comes to cost vs. quality.

  • Annual operating costs in Waterloo are $36 million for the typical 500-person tech company using 75,000 sq. ft. of office space. Of this, tech talent accounts for $34 million and office rent is $2 million.
  • For context, annual operating costs in other small tech hubs like Columbus, Pittsburgh and Austin are $42.8 million, $42.5 million and $48 million. In the San Francisco Bay Area, operating costs reach a whopping $69.2 million.
  • Once again, CBRE states that Waterloo provides the best value when it comes to cost vs. quality, which is decisively displayed in the chart below.
  • While costs in Waterloo are rising, they aren’t anywhere close to the cost of living in New York, San Francisco or Boston.

Tech Talent Quality in North America- CBRE 2022

At this point, Waterloo’s success is no secret. Our ability to grow and retain exceptional tech talent and attract the right people from around the world keeps us in the winner’s circle.

Waterloo is an affordable place to set up shop and provides access to incredible tech talent. In our tech ecosystem, your company can grow, thrive and score a winning spot on the tech podium.

Note: All statistics listed in this blog post were retrieved from CBRE Scoring Tech Talent 2022.

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