More Tech Companies Making Big Bets in Toronto

More Tech Companies Making Big Bets in Toronto

Microsoft is planning a new, $570 million Canadian headquarters in Toronto, GeekWire reported last week, becoming the latest in a series of major US tech companies to announce large-scale investments in Canada:

The Redmond, Wash., software giant announced plans to build a massive new Canadian headquarters in Toronto, promising to invest $570 million in the facility. Microsoft expects to move into the new facility, located at 81 Bay Street, in Sept. 2020. The company will relocate its current Canadian headquarters and several other offices, dispersed through the country, to the new headquarters.

Toronto is having a bit of a moment on the global tech stage. Google sister company Sidewalk Labs is developing a plan to create an innovation district on the Toronto waterfront as a proof-of-concept for technologists who believe they can improve urban planning. Google plans to relocate its Canadian headquarters to Toronto as part of that initiative.

The very next day, Uber also revealed plans for a new Toronto office, announcing that it would spend around $154 million to build a new engineering hub there, doubling its Toronto-based tech workforce to around 500 employees. The ride-sharing startup will also be expanding its self-driving car operations there. These latest moves will further boost Toronto’s profile as one of Canada’s leading tech hubs, particularly for emerging technologies like artificial intelligence. Major tech companies have been investing in Canada at a steady clip over the past year, also including Salesforce, Alphabet’s DeepMind unit, and Facebook. Toronto is also the only non-US finalist for Amazon’s second North American headquarters.

These announcements represent victories for Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who has been actively marketing Canada as an alternative to the US as a destination for tech talent and investment. Trudeau’s pitch is based partly in the existing talent communities in cities like Toronto, fed by a collection of world-class research universities, and partly in the relative ease with which employers in Canada can hire globally at a time when the US government is introducing more restrictive immigration controls.

Toronto and other Canadian cities are among the most competitive markets for tech talent in North America, according to the latest annual survey from the commercial real estate services and investment firm CBRE. Toronto boasted the fastest-growing tech sector on CBRE’s list, having created 28,900 tech jobs last year, and was ranked fourth in its broader index of competitiveness. Like other burgeoning tech meccas, however, Toronto is facing new challenges, such as increasingly scarce and expensive housing for its growing talent community.