Mayor John Tory, Brampton Mayor Linda Jeffrey, Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie, and the regional chairs of Durham and York on a promotional blitz intended to attract technology and innovation businesses to the Greater Toronto Area. Global Toronto CEO Toby Lennox said, “Every now and then we’re going to want mayors and chairs to meet with companies who are either in the final stages or seriously considering a relocation. It’s very helpful to have a mayor or chair to sit down and describe the assets of their own municipality.”
He went on to describe the Toronto area as “perhaps the most exciting and dynamic city in North America right now. We have the talent supply, we have the quality of life, we have all the attributes that companies are looking for in order to establish their growth.”
The Greater Toronto Area has been eyeing Amazon recently, as the company makes plans to open up its second headquarters. Ed Clark, a business adviser to Premier Kathleen Wynne, stated that the Toronto region offers highly trained talent “at a very competitive cost,” one which would save Amazon $1.5 billion a year. “That’s an edge the government is determined not only to maintain but to sharpen,” he said.
According to Economic Development Minister Brad Duguid, Ontario will focus on growing the pool of available talent, rather than providing financial incentives. However, Amazon will have the same access to the province’s business supports as any other firm in Ontario if it qualifies. He stated, “We’re not going to buy Amazon to come here. We don’t need to buy Amazon to come here. We have the competitiveness and the best talent base anywhere in North America today. That’s what’s going to draw companies like Amazon here.” Amazon plans to make a final decision sometime next year.
Google’s sister company, Sidewalk Labs, recently announced that it will be designing a high-tech neighborhood on Toronto’s waterfront. Exact details are unclear, though the company did release preliminary renderings of what it envisions for the 12-acre district known as Quayside. So far, the company has committed $50 million to the project’s first phase, although the development is expected to cost $1 billion or more. Quayside will be located in an 800-acre area called Port Lands.
Sidewalk Labs CEO Dan Doctoroff discussed the plans at a press conference last month, stating that technology will be a large part of the masterplan. “This will not be a place where we deploy technology for its own sake, but rather one where we use emerging digital tools and the latest in urban design to solve big urban challenges in ways that we hope will inspire cities around the world.”
Making Toronto a world-class centre for technology is a priority for Mayor John Tory, who lauded the decision by Sidewalk Labs to build in Toronto as a step into the future. However, he says there remains much to be done in order to ramp up the GTA’s tech scene.