Waterloo Region in 2014

by John Jung, CEO, Canada's Technology Triangle

Waterloo Region - According to the Conference Board of Canada, Canada benefits significantly from inward investment, which validates a strong economy, boosts productivity, attracts and creates new jobs as well as attracts innovation, stimulates trade and overall creates wealth for Canadians. However concern has been raised in the past that Canada has been slipping behind in our ability to attract FDI and in winning new investment opportunities abroad. As such, we need to do everything we can to make Canada, and our individual communities the most attractive destinations for foreign investment. This includes ensuring that at the federal and provincial levels we have the most attractive policies, incentives and stable government possible; and locally we have the right product, services, infrastructure and talent that will attract global investment and trade. Then we need to effectively market globally to be able to raise awareness of Canada and our cities and regions in order for the world to come to do business and invest in us. This is actually a tall order in a competitive world. Let’s face it - Canada is just not on the global radar screen, which means by extension, that Ontario and places like the Waterloo Region probably aren’t either. Accordingly, we will have to all work harder and smarter to be able to raise the global awareness that we are all talking about.

At CTT, we have been focused on marketing the competitive advantages of the Waterloo Region in key target markets especially through the recent economic downturn. These efforts are seldom understood in a local community. However, through the efforts of many in our community, including CTT, we have helped to put the Waterloo Region on the global map and we need to continue to do so especially as the region continues to transform. Institutions such as the University of Waterloo, Laurier and Conestoga College as well as the Perimeter Institute and CIGI have an international reputation and increasingly growing diaspora of international graduates and fellows that sing the praises of Canada and our community to their countrymen back home, some of whom may become business partners and investors in our region as a result. Homegrown companies and domestic start-ups that have expanded into foreign markets such as Blackberry, Open Text, Desire2Learn and Miovision have helped to raise awareness of the region as a center of excellence in technology, attracting others to join the growing cluster. Foreign multinationals (FMN) located in the Waterloo Region help to further reinforce and validate the success of our ecosystem that originally attracted them to the region and continues to retain them in the community. Furthermore these FMNs may advocate for expansion which can further attract FDI to the region. Municipal and Regional government’s role in providing confidence through stable and effective governance, provision of efficient infrastructure; readily available land for development and sound social, cultural and economic policies and practices, all combine to help to lay the foundation to create an innovation and knowledge-based ecosystem that can thrive and prosper for many decades to come. Additionally, organizations such as Canada’s Technology Triangle, Communitech and the Cambridge and the Greater Kitchener Waterloo Chambers of Commerce, among others, significantly help to promote the region, its sectors and successes in their own way internationally, regionally and locally.

As such, CTT focuses on efforts to promote the region internationally and target specific international investment leads in key markets. Although international promotion is expensive, especially for a small non-profit organization such as CTT, we have been able to leverage collaborative solutions in order to be able to make our international efforts feasible. Through innovative collaboration, CTT works with pan-regional groups from across the province focused on sectors such as ICT, Clean Tech, Food and Automotive to promote the Province of Ontario’s competitive advantages in these sectors, and in turn our collective communities. Our exposure in markets in the USA, Brazil, Europe and Asia through these pan-regional groups is vital in affording to raise awareness abroad. We also benefit from collaborating as our senior levels of government contribute additional significant resources when the communities proactively work together and we are able to find additional matching resources within our communities to contribute to the overall effort. CTT also works across Canada with a national alliance of cities known as CCCA (Consider Canada’s City Alliance) to promote Canada to the world. Working with DAFTD/Invest Canada, the CCCA benefits from leveraging shared resources and the additional support that the Federal Government provides through its international posts and its contributions to help target leads for the individual cities. In each of these innovative collaborative alliances, we are able to raise the awareness of our community as part of the collective message while benefiting from the shared resources in global marketing. CTT has been partnering with the pan-regional groups and Canada-wide alliance for several years now and in 2014 will continue to do so. Targets in 2014 for these groups include promoting in the USA, Europe, Asia and Brazil.

CTT formed the idea of “Team Waterloo Region” a few years ago to collaboratively pull together interested parties to promote together internationally as well as to receive and work with delegations and prospects coming to the Waterloo Region. It also acts as a brand to promote the region abroad. Recently CTT partnered with Waterloo Region municipalities, University of Waterloo, Canada’s Technology for Food (CTFF) and the private sector to promote the region in Germany and the Netherlands. Their “Aftercare” program in Germany focused on meeting the parent companies of firms in the Waterloo Region as well as targeted new leads. In the Netherlands, this unique Team Waterloo Region initiative has developed a new partnership that will be advanced through a steering committee in each city in 2014. In the past, the Mayors and their Economic Development officers have also travelled internationally with CTT to China and India. By having our civic leaders and key community partners promote our region abroad, it helps to raise global awareness and increases our exposure to international investment opportunities for our region. We also leverage our institutions and private sector in the community to act as ambassadors when they travel abroad. Encouraging them to continue to promote the region abroad in 2014 is a key activity for CTT in promoting internationalism and the importance of FDI locally. Internationally, CTT also leverages the partnership of our foreign posts and in-market provincial representatives as well as the international speaking engagements that are offered to CTT’s CEO to help promote the region abroad. Collectively, leveraging where we can, sharing resources and benefiting from innovative collaboration, has added considerable opportunities to raise awareness and attract investment of our region.

Yes, the Waterloo Region punches well above its weight as a globally recognized community despite our size, limited resources and our location in the shadow of Toronto. But through innovative collaborative efforts in 2014 that will help to continuously focus the Waterloo brand internationally, we will continue to push well beyond.

Source: From the desk of John G. Jung, CEO, Canada's Technology Triangle Inc.