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If you wonder what city in Canada is the biggest tech hub, Waterloo, Toronto, or Vancouver might come to mind, but Canada's capital has been attracting companies and creating jobs in the technology field for decades.

Ottawa is home to more than 1,750 tech companies and the technology industry there employs 68,500 people, according to Sonya Shorey, vice president of marketing and communications at Invest Ottawa.

What makes Ottawa such a great place for tech companies, and how can you take advantage of it? Shorey shares why she feels everyone in the tech field should be thinking more about Ottawa.

Why Ottawa?

Shorey believes the main reasons Ottawa has historically attracted tech investment are its proximity to the federal government, and because of the communications technology infrastructure research that happens here.

“Ottawa is a major information and communications technology bedrock for the country, particularly with a lot of telecommunications expertise and security expertise,” she says. “You see a lot of defense optical networking, telecommunications, and IT-based companies from around the world that have chosen to locate major research and development installations here in the Ottawa area.”

Another main reason Shorey thinks Ottawa has become a leader is talent.

“We have an incredible base of talent — both new and emerging talent from our post-secondary institutions in Ottawa,” she says. “They ensure that we have a pipeline of talent that is well prepared to meet the needs of the industry sectors.” That the talent pool is also diverse in terms of culture, experience, and levels of expertise, only adds to the draw for many companies.

“Our cost of living is significantly lower,” she says. “Plus, we have a high quality of life. We have the Ottawa River. We have Gatineau, Quebec directly across the river with Gatineau Park and the Gatineau hills, so you can go hiking or cross country skiing and enjoy all four seasons here.”

The Future of Ottawa

Ottawa’s tech dominance seems likely to continue well into the future as more national and international companies look to Ottawa as a place to invest.

“We have multinational giants like Nokia,” Shorey says. “Ericsson. IBM, Cisco Systems, and Adobe. Then we’ve got really homegrown successes like Shopify.”

Shorey expects Ottawa’s dominance to continue and grow; a number of tech areas are seeing significant investment in Ottawa at the moment, according to Shorey. These include next-generation telecommunications networks, artificial intelligence, machine learning, and autonomous vehicles.

Business people talking in open plan office

How to Tap into Canada’s Top Tech Hub

Given the number of technology companies and the infrastructure that already exists in Ottawa, both job seekers and entrepreneurs may be eager to tap into Ottawa’s tech boom.

Shorey suggests students explore opportunities, including co-op placements with employers or attending one of the region’s post-secondary institutions.

“If you’re a student, Invest Ottawa can help you to identify potential employers who are looking for new graduates such as yourself.” Invest Ottawa posts job opportunities, hosts career fairs, events, and forums as well, including the recent, “Discover Your Tech Personality” workshop in partnership with RBC Future Launch, the financial institution’s 10 year, $500 million commitment to helping young Canadians prepare for a changing job market.

If you’re an entrepreneur, Shorey suggests costing out how much you might save by starting or moving your business to Ottawa. In addition to access to talent, many of whom are bilingual, Ottawa provides low cost of living, and was ranked as the top business-friendly city in the Western Hemisphere by the Financial Times.

“The cost of operating a business in Ottawa, the cost of building a team, and the cost of living are significantly lower than other metropolitan areas in Canada and certainly across the U.S.,” says Shorey.

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