By Jens-Michael Schaal, Senior Economic Officer, New York
Ontario is Open for Business
My home province of Ontario, Canada is no latecomer to the age of innovation. The people of the province have a history of discovery that has long impressed the outer corners of the globe. It’s why Ontario remains a top destination for companies looking to expand their business.
While our past has cemented us as a destination ripe for growth, our promising future is what drives some of the world’s biggest companies to plant roots in the province. From Google to Uber, GM to Etsy, when a company invests in Ontario, they know they will be among some of the most successful businesses of our time.
But Ontario is more than just a destination for global powerhouses. It’s humble in its origins as a place where entrepreneurship thrives. The start-up ecosystem in the province is alive and well, with incubators riddled throughout the province and ready to mold the companies of the next generation.
Ontario is a place where the new economy has emerged in force. While some regions are known for doing one or two things well, the province is a leader in multiple sectors. We are embracing the here and now, while also maintaining the muscle of our traditional industries.
We want the world to know – Ontario is open for business.
Talent Lives Here
In Ontario, we know that our talent is our lifeblood. The province is home to some of the most highly-skilled, highly-educated people, who constantly strive for greatness.
Sixty-eight percent of Ontarians possess a post-secondary education, and its universities are some of the best in the world. The University of Toronto is a top 20 global university, with five other schools in Ontario cracking the top 300 in the world – and they are well prepared for the digital age. In fact, University of Waterloo graduates are the second-most hired students by Silicon Valley companies, and Ontario, Canada has two of the top 25 global computer science programs.
Ontario is also a top producer of STEM graduates with over 40,000 of them annually. And as STEM continues to grow, so will Ontario’s programs. It is our goal to be ahead of the curve and challenge the digital shift with breakthrough ideas and technologies.
And our talent is what will help get us there.
While Ontario’s homegrown talent is plentiful, we know that the next big thing could come from anyone, from any country. That’s why Ontario has such a welcoming stance on immigration. The province embraces its image as a cultural mosaic employing talent from all around the world.
The federal and provincial governments work together to implement immigration programs that help companies recruit and retain highly-skilled international talent at the speed of business. For example, The Global Skills Strategy offers work permits in just ten business days. Open work permits for spouses and study permits for dependents will also be processed in two weeks – this way, families can stay together.
We are committed to having our skilled foreign workers become permanent Canadian residents. We want the best and brightest to be able to call Ontario their home.
That’s why the government developed the Ontario Immigrant Nominee Program. The program allows foreign workers, international students and others with the right skills, experience and education to apply for a nomination for permanent residence in Ontario.
The program also benefits the province, helping us to meet labour market and economic development needs. With almost a third of Ontario’s 14 million people born outside of Canada, we know that international talent is essential to building business and building a strong economy.
A Thriving Ecosystem
Ontario’s robust ecosystem makes it easy to do business in the province. As the economic engine of Canada, the province is at the forefront of several sectors. We’re a large automotive producer (in 2017, the province built more cars than Michigan), but also the second-largest financial hub in North America, as well as a global player in industries ranging from clean energy, to life sciences, information technology and aerospace.
And part of this vibrant ecosystem includes an unmatched quality of life. Businesses want to invest places where their employees want to live, and Ontario is consistently ranked as one of the best places to live and work in the world.
In Ontario, we are proud of our affordable healthcare and housing. Average healthcare costs are lower than many of our competitors, and our cities compare favourably with their North American peers when it comes to housing costs. Simply put: less money buys more living space in Ontario.
Strong Relationships, Key Location
Doing business in Ontario means being connected with the rest of the world. Only a short flight or drive to major U.S. hubs, Ontario is centrally located in the heart of North America making the global market truly accessible.
In fact, Ontario is a top customer of the U.S., making it the perfect destination for businesses looking to expand. In 2018, U.S.-Ontario two-way trade totaled US$301 billion, with more than US$800 million in goods traded every day. If Ontario were a country, it would be the third-largest U.S. trading partner.
Ontario’s location and extensive transportation infrastructure translates directly into expanded market access, making it easy to transport goods over land, air and water. In fact, Ontario has more than 250,000 kilometers of municipal roads, provincial highways, and resource and recreational roads, and five international airports, including Canada’s largest airport, which has more than 1,000 daily flights to all six continents. With more options than ever, it’s never been easier to grow your business in Ontario.
Cost Benefits and Cutting Red Tape
The key to building a successful business in the knowledge economy is having access to top quality talent and infrastructure, at a reasonable cost.
That’s Ontario’s advantage.
Savings in business costs also come from lower corporate healthcare costs, and some of the lowest corporate tax rates in the advanced world. Together, this combination delivers an unmatched value proposition.
It’s why Ontario is able to attract high-quality talent at a lower cost. For example, our software engineers rank high on the talent scale, but come in at a lower salary than in other tech hubs.
The provincial government is also working hard to make it easier on businesses to invest in Ontario. Reducing the regulatory burden placed on companies is a top priority – because we know today’s global marketplace places a premium on speed.
Ontario has set an aggressive target to cut business red tape by 25 percent by 2020 and launched a plan to remove barriers to job creation in about a dozen sectors.
Our mission is to create a business-friendly environment where investment can grow. And while we know that these advantages are important, we also know that they are only valuable if the overall business environment is stable.
Firms that choose to invest in Ontario can have confidence in the province’s long-term political and economic stability. For example, Canada’s solid banking system is the envy of the world, and the country is also one of the world’s foremost free trade enthusiasts with a stellar international reputation to back it up.
With 15 free trade agreements signed or in force with more than 50 countries, it really is no wonder that Canada is often cited as one the best countries in the world to headquarter a business, and that Ontario is one of the best provinces to grow a company.
In fact, several Ontario cities were once again featured prominently in the 2017/2018 American Cities of the Future report. Over 20 Ontario cities dominated the business friendliness category, proving that the province has many opportunities for new and established businesses.
An Economy Built on Innovation
Ontario has a deep history of innovation. It’s where insulin was discovered, the first pacemaker invented, and radiation first used to treat some cancers. That innovative spirit continues to live across the province, with discoveries happening every day in newer fields such as regenerative medicine, artificial intelligence (AI), and information technology.
Ontario is Canada’s largest centre of life sciences activity, which includes about 1,900 firms. The world’s top 10 pharmaceutical firms all do clinical trials in Ontario, and there is a vibrant mix of large multinationals and home-grown companies changing the face of the industry. For example, Toronto-based Blue Rock Therapeutics is working not only to treat, but to cure degenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s. And momentum is growing. Ontario’s 24 academic research hospitals have invested as much as $1.4 billion in R&D and employ 18,000 researchers and research staff across the province. If history repeats itself, the next big breakthrough could be found in Ontario.
In the age of artificial intelligence, adoption of advanced technology is imperative to building a sustainable business model. Ontario is a proven leader in this field. With over 300 AI firms established across the province, our ecosystem is poised for major growth, and major results.
The Vector Institute for Artificial Intelligence, located in Toronto, is an independent, not-for profit corporation dedicated to research in the field of AI, excelling in machine and deep learning. With AI luminary Geoffrey Hinton as its chief scientific advisor, the Vector Institute works with institutions, industry, start-ups, incubators and accelerators to advance AI research and drive its application, adoption and commercialization across Canada.
In Ontario, premium technology talent is also helping to rewire the way business is done.
Ontario is North America’s second-largest IT cluster and is constantly growing. Seven of the world’s 10 largest tech companies conduct R&D in Ontario, and we are home to two of the world’s largest start-up ecosystems, Toronto and Waterloo.
In fact, some of the most well-known tech companies in the world, like Google, IBM and BlackBerry continue to have significant operations in the province and are actively recruiting talent.
It’s no surprise that conferences like Collision are moving to Toronto, Ontario. And it’s why Toronto made the Amazon HQ2 shortlist.
As the new economy continues to be built on the blocks of technology, new jobs in the fields of blockchain, artificial intelligence, deep learning and 5G will become more prominent, and Ontario is poised to lead the way.
Canadians do not need to be convinced that opening their doors to the world is essential to building business. In Ontario, we are constantly creating new ways to make hiring quicker and easier to expand our already rich talent pool. We also know the importance of cutting red tape to make it easier for business to invest.
That’s what makes Ontario so special. It’s a place where ideas and talent create a force to be reckoned with. This is evidenced by the amazing innovations that come out of the province, and the future-ready path forward that is being re-defined every day.
With a thriving economy, a strong ecosystem, and a diverse array of sector strengths and abilities, Ontario is open to new ideas, open to new discovery, and open for business.