Green is the color of a certain leaf legalized in 2018 in Canada, where tens of millions of green dollars are being invested in job-creating facilities to cultivate, process and distribute products from it. But the most important leaf remains that red maple on the national flag, symbolizing rugged independence, natural resources (including those 80,000 barrels of maple syrup in the nation’s strategic reserve), natural beauty and, to many, an open door to foreign immigrant talent as well as foreign direct investment.
“Foreign investment offers far-reaching economic benefits for the middle class and everyone working hard to join it,” said Global Affairs Canada in March 2018 when it launched Invest in Canada, a new federal organization dedicated to attracting global investment and simplifying the process for global businesses to make Canada their new home. “It creates jobs in Canada for Canadians, expands trade, boosts productivity, provides access to new technologies, encourages innovation, and links Canadian firms to global supply chains.”
The new organization, funded with $218 million over five years, seeks to attract FDI in sectors aligned with the government’s economic growth strategy, in particular in advanced manufacturing, agri-food, clean technology, digital technology, health sciences and bio-sciences, and clean resources. It’s led by CEO Ian McKay, familiar to Site Selection readers as the former CEO of the Vancouver Economic Commission.
Foreign investment in Canada currently stands at approximately $800 billion. Approximately 1.9 million Canadians are employed by foreign-controlled multinational enterprises in Canada. That’s almost 12% of Canadian workers, or one in eight Canadian jobs.
Foreign investors are prominent among the hundreds of projects tracked by Site Selection from April 1, 2018 through March 31, 2019 for this year’s province-level Canadian Competitiveness Award and regional Canada’s Best Locations honors. The recognition is derived from qualifying corporate facility investment project activity in Site Selection’s Conway Projects Database, based on meeting one of three criteria: at least $1 million invested; at least 20 new jobs created; or at least 20,000 new sq. ft. of space. Areas are evaluated on a cumulative and per-capita basis for job creation and capital investment affiliated with these qualifying projects.
Following are the top three provinces in the Canadian Competiveness Rankings, followed by (in alphabetical order) the 20 locations earning this year’s salute as Canada’s Best Locations.
1. Ontario Ministry of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade
Vic Fedeli, Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade
“We need someone who’s got big picture understanding of the cost structure in Ontario. The former finance minister probably has a better perspective than anybody else.”
Significant Projects: Noront Resources, UPS Canada, Toyota, Ranovus
Activity: In addition to red tape reduction achieved by previous administrations, the Ontario government aims to reduce regulatory requirements affecting businesses by another 25% by 2020. The Canadian Federation of Independent Business in its 2019 Red Tape Report Card gives the province an A-, up from a C+ in 2018. In February, the government launched its 10-year Driving Prosperity auto plan aimed at addressing challenges in the sector around competitiveness, innovation and talent. In 2017, Ontario exported approximately $145 billion in goods and services to other provinces and territories: The province continues to work with other provinces to eliminate regulatory and other barriers to doing business across all the nation’s provinces.
Did You Know? Approximately 60 companies from India have operations in Ontario, a province where approximately 830,000 Ontarians are of Indian origin.
Hon. Tanya Fir, Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism
“Alberta’s innovative technology companies and student start-ups are recognized around the world for delivering leading-edge and advanced technology solutions.”
Significant Projects: SinoCan Global Trade, Cenovus, Suncor, Amazon, Canadian National Railway
Activity: Canada Kuwait Petrochemical Corp.’s $4.5 billion petrochemical upgrade plant in Sturgeon County and Inter Pipeline’s $3.5 billion Heartland Petrochemical Complex near Fort Saskatchewan will use the province’s ample propane to make and export plastics products. They both were initially selected for backing by the Alberta government’s Made-in Alberta program in 2016. Another similar project from Value Creation was announced in early 2019. The government announced a second round of support for petrochemical upgrading in 2018, with total support now reaching $2.1 billion to unlock about $20 billion in private-sector investment.
Did You Know? Seven organizations in Alberta’s innovation ecosystem — The A100, Alberta Enterprise Corporation, BDC, PwC Canada, Startup Calgary, Startup Edmonton and the Venture Capital Association of Alberta — hosted the inaugural Start Alberta Tech Awards where Startup Calgary received the Ecosystem Supporter of the Year Award.
Guy LeBlanc President and CEO
“It’s important to me that Unity has a thriving office in Montréal because it’s home to a dynamic community comprised of top tech talent, gaming studios, and indie creators.”
Significant Projects: Blackrock Metals, Kruger Products, Valero, Endoceutics, Aurora Cannabis
Activity: Among other moves, Hydro-Québec and Invest Québec are joining forces to attract more businesses to the province, with an emphasis on both high-energy-demanding industries such as data centers and metals, and on the province’s clean hydropower generation base, responsible for some 99% of all power produced in the province. Invest Quebec also has integrated artificial intelligence into its prospecting process for FDI.
Did You Know? Since 2015, the Québec video game industry has seen 42% growth in the number of companies establishing roots or expanding in the province.
Calgary Economic Development
Mary Moran, President & CEO
“Calgary is in the midst of a sizeable development cycle, with 2.4 million sq. ft. expected to be completed in 2019, while 2018 saw 3.6 million sq. ft. of new supply added to the market.”
Significant Projects: BASF, Bayer Crop Science, CLEAResult Consulting, Hexagon, Sofina Foods
Activity: With the MyBusiness program, Calgary is the first municipality in Canada to allow small business customers to start a new business completely online. The vision is for Calgary’s new “Calgary in the New Economy” strategy is to be city of choice in Canada for the best entrepreneurs, especially in areas such as cleaner energy, safer and more secure food, better health solutions and the safe transportation of people and goods. In April 2018 the city launched the $100 million Opportunity Calgary Investment Fund, with the first batch of $18.6 million supporting five organizations including MobSquad, ATTAbotics and the University of Calgary Life Sciences Innovation Hub.
Did You Know? Thanks to the Calgary Film Commission and Calgary Film Centre facilities, companies behind such productions as "Dark Fargo," "Lost in Space," "MasterChef Canada" and "Black Summer" have found Calgary a hit location, and poured $181 million into production in the area during the time period examined.
City of Delta (BC)
Sean McGill, City Manager
We look forward to bringing this state of-the-art entertainment destination to such a rapidly growing and dynamic community. Through our investment of $70 million in Delta we will bring up to 700 new jobs and careers to the area and significant economic spin-offs during the construction and beyond.”
Activity: Delta is one of more than a dozen communities home to the Port of Vancouver, Canada’s largest port, which supports 4,800 jobs, $300 million in wages and $1 billion in economic impact in Delta alone. The area, known for its low tax-increase environment and fiscal responsibility, promotes saustainability revitalization programs related to the South Delta area, Tilbury Industrial Area and Scott Road.
Did You Know? Farming and fishing (salmon) were the economic foundations of Delta, which now is home to the three municipalities of Ladner, Tsawwassen and North Delta. About 50% of the province’s potato acres, 50% of the greenhouse vegetable area and 25% of the field vegetable acres are located in Delta.
Malcolm Bruce, CEO
“This could be the beginning of a huge start for logistics and distribution in this region because of our proximity to the airport. If Amazon believes that they can make it here, well, I’m thinking most other companies will think that, too.”
Significant Projects: Aurora Cannabis, Air Canada, MTE Logistix Management, Hocevar, Inter Pipeline
Activity: Home to more than 1.3 million people and generating $105 billion in GDP, the Edmonton metro region — encompassing Leduc, Sturgeon, Strathcona and Parkland counties in addition to Edmonton proper — is Canada’s fifth largest economy. Immigrant newcomers make up 23% of the region’s population, led by immigrants from the Philippines, India, China and the UK.
Did You Know? Graduates of the University of Alberta, ranked fourth in Canada and 81st in the world for research impact, rank No. 1 in Canada and 31st in the world for employment rate.
Ignite Fredericton (New Brunswick)
Larry Shaw, CEO
“When we first opened our Fredericton location in 2014, there were five people in the office. Now, less than four years later, we have nearly 100. This immense expansion is due in large part to the incredible local talent that the New Brunswick area offers.”
Significant Projects: Lateetud, Canopy Growth, Global Intelligence Inc., Resson
Activity: A record-setting $73 million in building permits was issued from January to May 2019 in Fredericton. Led by CRM automation firm IntroHive, Fredericton’s startup community last year ranked No. 5 in the nation in closed venture capital deals and No. 6 for total amount of capital secured, according to the Canadian Venture Capital Association. Ignite Fredericton and several partner organizations this year announced a five-year immigration strategy with targets that include increasing the population by 1,000 new residents annually over the next 25 years, and reaching a target of four working-age residents for each retiree in Fredericton by 2036. The area is also pursuing a new strategy focused on building IT and cybersecurity clusters.
Did You Know? Base Gagetown — Canada’s largest military base and the place all military come for training — draws thousands of military personnel and families from across Canada every year.
Invest in Hamilton
Glen Norton, Director
“CIB is proud to take part in a transformational project that will remarkably improve the quality of life for commuters.”
Significant Projects: Fusion Pharmaceuticals, Del Windows & Doors, Mondelez International, Kelowna Flightcraft, Walter’s Group
Activity: The Conference Board of Canada last year stated that Hamilton would have the third Largest Projected GDP Growth among large metro areas in Canada. Airports Council International said Hamilton International Airport is the No. 1 fastest growing airport in North America, and the largest overnight express cargo airport in Canada. Research InfoSource found Hamilton’s Mohawk College the No. 1 most research-intensive college in the nation, and McMaster University the No. 1 most research-intensive university.
Did You Know? Since 2015, the number of businesses operating in Hamilton has grown by 939.
Wendy Luther, President & CEO
“This will change the fabric of our city ... for generations to come.”
Significant Projects: Manulife Securities, REDspace, Eeye, Savormetrics
Activity: The Halifax Index, which benchmarks Halifax against six similar-sized Canadian cities (St. John’s, Quebec City, Kitchener-Cambridge-Waterloo, London, Regina and Victoria), notes that a new record was set in 2018 with a 2% increase in population. Over the past three years Halifax’s population has swelled by more than 22,000 people to more than 430,500. The Halifax Partnership is working with its investors, partners and the community toward growing the city’s population to 550,000 and its GDP to $30 billion by 2031.
Did You Know? On the strength of new highs in conferences and cruise ship visits in 2018, total overnight room bookings grew by 14%, marking six straight years of growth.
Kingston ED Corporation
Donna Gillespie, CEO
“I’m proud that our current Government takes women’s economic empowerment seriously. From tackling pay equity to modernizing parental leave, this government is taking action on gender equality because when women succeed, we all succeed.”
Significant Projects: Feihe, Canada Royal Milk, Hino Motors, Frulact, Spearhead Brewing Co.
Activity: Kingston Economic Development, Queen’s University Office of Partnerships and Innovation and Ontario East Economic Development collaborated with the Center State Corporation for Economic Opportunity and the Central New York Biotech Accelerator to foster the US/Canada Regional Innovation Corridor in order to establish soft landing facilities in both countries for businesses entering new markets. In addition to new outreach efforts with India and South Africa, Kingston EDC hired a Chinese market specialist to assist in aftercare with such investors as Feihe and Canada Royal Milk, and to support further FDI opportunities.
Did You Know? With a June approval, Kingston is now home to Canada's only mine for wollastonite, an organically certified mineral that offers green opportunities in concrete and steel manufacturing, agribusiness, and environmental cleanup
London ED Corporation
Kapil Lakhotia, President & CEO
“London is strategically placed in the 400-series [highways]. We have 402, 403 and 401 right at our door.”
Significant Projects: Maple Leaf Foods, Sikorsky Sausage, Indiva, Cargill
Activity: Among other initiatives, the LEDC launched an Industrial Lands page on its resources page to provide in-depth information about the industrial sites available in London (www.ledc.com/resources/industrial-land) and integrated a tool called Spacelist onto LEDC’s Accelerate page to allow businesses to explore available sites and buildings of all kinds — from office and retail to industrial, land, or medical (www.ledc.com/accelerate/space-incubation).
Did You Know? Fanshawe College — a four-campus school serving 43,000 students a year — has received nearly $2 million over five years from the Government of Canada to establish a research hub focused on the agri-food industry.
City of Mississauga ED Office (Ontario)
Bonnie Brown, Director
“I’m excited to officially welcome CBS’s new film and television studio to Mississauga — the first one of its kind in our city and a major investment for this industry.”
Significant Projects: Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Eurofins Scientific, KOTI, Fresenius-Kabi
Activity: Mississauga EDO continues to host Continuous Improvement Sessions for manufacturing companies. Office staff traveled to Japan to conduct a series of prequalified investment meetings in order to strengthen relations with Japanese companies with a Mississauga subsidiary and to continue efforts to attract and retain FDI investment. Mississauga is home to approximately 100 Japanese companies, accounting for over a half of Japanese companies located in Ontario. The EDO also launched a Digital Main Street program to support local main street small businesses.
Did You Know? In March 2019, the City of Mississauga Council voted in principle to become independent from the Region of Peel, a request that would need to be approved by the province and is a result of the Ontario government’s regional government review process. "We are paying more into the Region than we are getting out of it and that’s simply not fair," said Mayor Crombie.
City of Moncton (New Brunswick)
Kevin Silliker, Director, Economic Development
“Employing Atlantic Canadians and giving them the opportunity to do innovative value-added work is fundamental to our mission at Apex.”
Significant Projects: Dovico Software, TD Direct Insurance, Al-Pack Enterprises
Activity: Financial and insurance services, BPO and IT continue to be target growth sectors for the Moncton region. A Bank of Montreal labor market report card issued in spring 2018 called Moncton the best city in Canada to find a job, up from last place the year before.
Did You Know? The University of Moncton is a fully bilingual university (the largest French-speaking campus outside Quebec in Canada) and is located in a city that became the nation's first fully bilingual city in 2002.
Hubert Bolduc, President and CEO
“Known for being a world-leading video game and entertainment content production hub, with rich resources in talent and technologies, Montréal offers clear advantages and favorable conditions to international online games companies such as NetEase.”
Significant Projects: Digital Domain Productions, Amazon, Microsoft, Denso
Activity: As Montreal experienced greater growth than any other Canadian city in 2018, this tidbit from Montreal International’s annual activity report for 2018 explained why: “The 63 foreign investment projects that received support totaled $2.5 billion and led to the creation of nearly 6,000 direct jobs,” the organization said. “What is even more noteworthy is that the annual average salary for these high-quality jobs is $77,000, which is 75% higher than the average salary in Québec’s private sector. These investment projects generated significant spinoffs for the metropolitan area that account for 17% of Québec’s economic growth in 2018.”
Did You Know? In 2018, Montréal International launched its promotion and prospecting activities for high-potential foreign entrepreneurs - a new mandate assigned by the Government of Québec. "Our team has met with more than 250 prospects, 32 of whom have taken steps to launch their startup in Montréal," MI reports.
Invest Oakville (Ontario)
Dorothy St. George, Director of Economic Development
“Oakville is currently home to businesses that are leading the way in advanced manufacturing and innovative technologies, creating hundreds of jobs in our community and boosting our local economy.”
Significant Projects: Ford Motor Co., GVA Lighting, Cipher Pharmaceuticals, Weight Watchers International, Aviva
Activity: The city’s new economic development strategy focuses on professional and financial services, digital media, information communications technology, film and life sciences as key sectors. In 2018, MoneySense Magazine recognized Oakville as Canada’s Best Place to Live and Best Place for New Canadians. Factors like household income, good quality jobs, community safety, and top performing schools were key determinants. A new Oakville Virtual Tour was developed to showcase new and ongoing opportunities and investments. In 2018, significant activity occurred within the manufacturing sector in Oakville in the area of additive manufacturing.
Did You Know? Although Oakville opted out of retail cannabis, the Ontario Cannabis Store Distribution Center opened operations in Oakville, occupying a 70,000 sq. ft. facility and employing approximately 100 workers.
Carl Viel, President and CEO
“The creativity and innovation that we see in Quebec is among the most exciting things happening in technology.”
Significant Projects: Synase, Medicago, Telus, Silicycle, Alpha Brewery
Activity: “Our 2018 initiatives have generated more than $435 million in economic benefits, a significant increase of more than 40% compared to 2017,” says QI, especially from foreign investors. “As the availability of labor is a priority for local businesses, our team has stepped up its international recruitment activities, with a 126% increase in the value of the GDP generated by recruited talents. In 2018, this growth allowed the establishment of nearly 2,700 people in the region and generated over $87 million in economic benefits. Finally, now more than ever, the entrepreneurial spirit of the region has been highlighted by the popularity of our consulting services on this subject. Indeed, coaching hours in the field tripled between 2017 and 2018, reaching nearly 1,800 hours.”
Did You Know? In 2018, the labor market reached a historical high of 452,600 jobs in the Québec City metro area — 9,800 jobs more than last year. This growth represents an annual increase of 2.2%, the second highest among the eight major Canadian metro areas.
Sarnia-Lambton Economic Partnership (Ontario)
Stephen Thompson, CEO
“I think it has more potential than the rest of Canada probably realizes. There’s nowhere else in the world that we would have preferred to build this plant.”
Significant Projects: Micromidas, LCY Biosciences, Imtex Membranes, Langtree Controls
Activity: In addition to adopting a new strategic plan in April 2018, the Partnership identified FDI attraction opportunities in the Industrial (Biofuels, Biochemicals, Bioplastics); Plastics; Industrial Wastewater Treatment and Chemicals 2.0 (Digitization) arenas. “Sarnia-Lambton has a high concentration of environmental professionals and chemical engineers working in the Petrochemical and Biohybrid chemistry clusters, as well as healthcare professionals,” says the Partnership in explaining the debut of a new program to develop alumni networks, which it says “could help prevent brain drain from highly skilled people leaving the community.”
Did You Know? Though now diversifying into greener and more bio-based sectors, Sarnia’s role in the petrochemical industry stems from its proximity to the oil fields of Petrolia and Oil Springs, which have been drilled commercially since the 1860s.
Saskatoon Regional Economic Development Authority
Alex Fallon, President & CEO
“We’ll have to recruit, definitely, outside of our borders. We’ll have to look outside of Canada. But we’ll look to bring people back who have left Saskatchewan.”
Significant Projects: Conexus Credit Union, Aurora Cannabis, Fire and Flower Cannabis, JNE Welding
Activity: A first-of-its-kind economic growth plan entitled Growing YXE will lay out a proactive approach towards shaping Saskatoon’s economic future over the next five years, and is expected to be released this fall. Among its focal areas will be attracting entrepreneurs. And it can look to another recent report for sustenance: A SREDA report on the Golden Opportunities fund that was founded 20 years ago found that its investment in more than 130 Saskatchewan businesses has led to an economic impact of $3 billion and the creation of more than 15,000 jobs in Saskatchewan.
Did You Know? As Saskatoon’s population continues to grow to just over 328,000, the city remains one of the youngest in Canada, with a median age of 35.8 years, compared to the national median age of 41.2 years.
Toby Lennox, CEO
“A distinguishing factor in our [HQ2] bid was the decision not to offer any incentives to entice Amazon to choose the Toronto Region. We are proud of our decision to compete solely on the unique strengths of our region, regardless of Amazon’s decision.”
Significant Projects: Paccar, Volvo, Netflix, Qualcomm
Activity: The mayor quoted above said the decision to release the region’s Amazon HQ2 bid book publicly, (it had been downloaded 17,300 times to date) “opened the door to many conversations with international companies considering the Toronto Region.” The Toronto region (which encompasses several other Canada’s Best Locations honorees listed here) generates 20% of the country’s GDP and houses 40% of Canada’s business headquarters.
Did You Know? The percentage of foreign-born population in Greater Toronto (46.8%) is higher than that of such global capitals as Brussels, Sydney, London and New York. There are 16 countries that have over 50,000 people represented in the Toronto Region.
Vancouver Economic Commission
Catherine Warren, CEO
“Some of the really salient things that stuck with us for Vancouver was that there’s a really strong market and talent quota. There are such a lot of startups with a strong entrepreneurial spirit. There are also really good schools, and there are lots of engineering graduates from those schools, like SFU, UBC, and BCIT. Those were our primary drivers.”
Significant Projects: SAP Canada, Emerald Health Therapeutics, SCI Logistics, Dorigo Systems
Activity: In June 2019, the VEC hosted a meeting of film and TV production industry leaders from across the nation to discuss the possibility of a nationwide film commission network. Last year, VEC used audited insurance datasets to calculate $3.8 billion in industry spending in B.C. alone — 42% of the national total. The State of Vancouver’s Green Economy 2018 report, showed that one in 15 Vancouverites now work in the green economy, up from one in 20 three years previous. Moreover, Vancouver’s economy grew faster than any other city in Canada while reducing its carbon emissions by 11% since 2007, the report said.
Did You Know? Vancouver's foreign-born population percentage of 44.7% barely trails Toronto's and is among the world's leaders in population diversity, part of why Mercer says it has the No. 1 quality of life in North America.
Waterloo Economic Development Corporation
Tony LaMantia, President & CEO
“With the discoveries already made to date in Waterloo, we can only imagine what can be accomplished when our knowledge and expertise in the fields of artificial intelligence and advanced manufacturing join with the power of some of Canada’s most important industrial players.”
Significant Projects: FGF Brands, Eclipse Automation, Dupar Controls, Frito-Lay Canada
Activity: CBRE’s 2019 Scoring Tech Talent report CBRE identifies Waterloo as North America’s third-fastest-growing “opportunity market.” Among other measures, the EDC hired a consultant to develop a Technology and Innovation FDI Strategy project for the Toronto-to-Waterloo Innovation Corridor, which developed a large database for the site selection process. The organization hosted 95 inbound missions and led 13 FDI outbound missions to core markets, increased the investment pipeline by 263% in investment value. One of the fastest growing communities in Canada, the Waterloo area will see about $3 billion in new development over the next few years. Area representatives took part in a trade mission to Japan that included a stop at Toyota’s global HQ in Nagoya following that company’s announcement of a $1.4 billion investment in its operations in the Greater Waterloo area.
Did You Know? Part of a post-secondary institutional community that boasts more than 73,000 students, the University of Waterloo has the No. 1 computer science program and No. 2 engineering program in Canada.
Economic Development Winnipeg
Dayna Spiring, President & CEO
“It has been 30 years since Winnipeg has developed an office building of this significance. With one of the highest leasing rates, TNS has had an effect on vacant and leased Class A & B buildings in Downtown Winnipeg.”
Significant Projects: Canada Goose, Delta 9 Cannabis, Freightliner, Eautopia Biological Technology
Activity: Capacity-building initiatives in the region include National Research Council $60 million in a new manufacturing research facility within CentrePort Canada; an advanced manufacturing stakeholder alliance; the University of Manitoba’s $500 million capital campaign that includes its Smartpark innovation hub; a smart city caucus and a creative campus caucus. Over the past five years, EDW says, the city’s labor force grew by 6.1% — nearly two points higher than the national average. Manitoba’s population growth estimates are forecasted to grow at a rate of 15% — second-best among all Canadian provinces, and trending toward the youngest.
Did You Know? CentrePort, the 20,000-acre development referred to as a trimodal inland port as it utilizes rail, trucks and aircraft, has sold around 1,200 acres, reports Avison Young. "In 2018 CentrePort started seeking partners to develop the 700-acre rail park in which negotiations with potential developers are ongoing," AY reported.
York Link (Ontario)
Doug Lindeblom, Director, Economic Development
“With proximity to the new TTC subway and bus terminal, expansive open spaces and civic facilities, SmartCentres Place is designed as a people first, pedestrian friendly, urban city center.”
Significant Projects: First Studio City (Markham), Northern Transformer, Vision Extrusions, Illuminex
Activity: Home to 1.2 million residents, 52,000 businesses, over 636,600 jobs, and four provincially-designated urban growth centers including Markham and Vaughan, York Region has the second highest number of technology companies in Canada, second largest financial services cluster in Ontario and one of the country’s largest manufacturing and construction industry clusters. The region is expected to grow to more than 1.8 million people and 900,000 jobs within the next 25 years.
Did You Know? York Region is home to over 4,300 Information and Communications Technology (ICT) companies, making it the second largest technology hub, not only in the Toronto-Waterloo corridor, but across Canada.
Adam Bruns has served as managing editor of Site Selection magazine since February 2002. In the course of reporting hundreds of stories for Site Selection, Adam has visited companies and communities around the globe. A St. Louis native who grew up in the Kansas City suburbs, Adam is a 1986 alumnus of Knox College, and resided in Chicago; Midcoast Maine; Savannah, Georgia; and Lexington, Kentucky, before settling in the Greater Atlanta community of Peachtree Corners, where he lives with his wife and daughter.