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Halifax named top tech centre in Atlantic Canada

A rank of the 20 Canadian cities with competitive advantages and appeal to tech-talent and tech employers included Halifax in eleventh spot, St. John’s, N.L. 17th and Moncton 20th.
A rank of the 20 Canadian cities with competitive advantages and appeal to tech-talent and tech employers included Halifax in 11th spot, St. John’s, N.L. 17th and Moncton 20th. - 123RF

Real estate brokerage company, CBRE, recently produced an analysis of  labour market conditions, cost and quality for highly skilled tech workers in Canada.

The study — 2019 Scoring Canadian Tech Talent — ranked 20 Canadian cities according to their competitive advantages and appeal to tech-talent and tech employers. Halifax was spotted at 11, St. John’s, N.L. 17 and Moncton 20.

The list of the top tech cities in Canada based on talent availability, quality of labour and cost competitiveness has, as one might suspect, Toronto leading the list with a score of 88.1, followed by Ottawa 73.1, Vancouver 71.4, Waterloo-region 69.4, Montreal 69.3, Calgary 53.9, Victoria 53.7, Quebec City 50.2, Hamilton 48.7 and Edmonton 48.2.

“While there is no shortage of homegrown Canadian tech success stories, perhaps the best indicator of the attractiveness of Canada’s tech landscape had been the actions of top U.S. tech companies. These firms are intentionally choosing to expand in Canada over U.S. cities,” the authors of the CBRE study wrote.

"The skilled pool of Canadian tech workers paid in discounted Canadian dollars is a significant draw for companies contemplating where to set up shop or expand operations," the authors stated.

Companies are attracted to Canada’s largest cities but smaller markets where the tech industry is being supported are also the attention of companies. The report specifically pointed out, as an example, the largest Canadian venture capital deal this year was the $515 million recapitalization of St. John’s-based Verafin, a software company focused helping clients manage financial crime.

In eleventh place, Halifax was given a score of 44.6, with 10,500 tech workers, 5.1 per cent tech occupations as a percentage of total employment, a 9.4 per cent increase in tech talent over the last five years, with a labour quality rating of A-.

When it comes to diversity in Halifax’s tech talent pool, it’s not very good. According to CBRE 81 per cent of tech talent is male and the remaining 19 per cent is female.

St. John’s was given a score of 31.2 by CBRE. That city has 5.400 tech workers according to the study, 5.3 per cent of the total employment is in the tech sector, tech talent has grown by 3.8 per cent over the past five years. The quality of tech labour, according to the survey, earns a B+.

Moncton has a score of 13.3 according to CBRE. It has 3,100 tech workers, 4.3 per cent tech occupations as a percentage of total employment. The New Brunswick city’s tech talent pool has declined by 8.8 per cent over the past five years and the quality of the labour B+.

The B+ rating on the quality of the tech workforce, earned by a number of cities, appears to be the lowest ranking given by CBRE in this study.

Across all markets, CBRE states that the greatest cost for tech companies is employee wages. Highly skilled and educated workers demand a premium that can reach more than double the average non-tech salary, according to the study's authors.

"Office rents, while rising well above historical market averages in gateway markets due to increased tech demand, account for a much smaller share of a firm's expenses. In Canada, small capitalization tech firms reported real estate costs on average at 4.8 per cent of total annual expenses," according to CBRE research.

Moncton, Quebec City and London are the most affordable tech centres, the report states. But when grouping markets based on talent pool size, "Montreal is the most affordable large labour pool market in which to operate."

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