Business flocks to Montreal as high-tech job growth increases


Montreal’s high tech and creative sectors are once again flexing their muscles. The city saw 3.6 per cent in job growth last year, putting it at top spot among cities in Canada and the United States, according to Montréal International.

Montreal International looked at 75,000 jobs added in the greater Montreal area last year. The organization compared the number to newly released data from the U.S. to find that Montreal had the highest growth percentage among the 20 largest metropolitan areas in the two countries. Moreover, it’s the highest growth rate recorded in Montreal since 1998.

An economist with Montréal International, Christian Bernard, said he wasn’t surprised when he saw the numbers.

“It was exceptional, the growth in Montreal in 2017,” he told the Montreal Gazette’s Jacob Serebrin.

“We knew that Montreal was very attractive all around the world,” Bernard told CBC Montreal.

According to the organization, job growth is highest in information and culture sectors at six per cent, finance at seven per cent and professional, scientific and technical services at eight per cent. These categories involve many tech jobs, Bernard told the Gazette.

CBC used the example of Emma McGuinness, the general manager of a British visual effects company’s Montreal office.

Double Negative (DNEG) opened an office in Montreal last fall and has employed more than 250 people since January. McGuinness told CBC that the company doesn’t have to look far when making hiring decisions.

“There is a great culture here which brings great artists, and also there’s great training programs in the schools. So there is a big, a huge pool of untouched talent there for the taking,” she said.

McGuinness said tax incentives are helping to bring companies like hers to the city. As many readers will likely be aware, Montreal has long been a hot spot for game development due to its generous tax credits it offers to international rockstars in the sector, like Eidos and and Ubisoft.

In fact, Invest Quebec said Montreal is the world’s fifth biggest market in video game production after Tokyo, London, San Francisco and Austin. In 2017, more than 10,000 people were employed in Québec’s video game industry, the majority of which in Montreal.

But there’s more than meets the eye when it comes to why this city’s tech sector is growing so healthily.

“We feel that Machine learning has clearly played a large role for Montreal,” said Massimo Iamello, TMT leader for Deloitte Quebec. “The investments from the public sector, academia, and the large tech players (Google, Facebook, Microsoft, etc.), as well as the proliferation of startups in the space are all leading to high tech job creation in the city.”

As wel, said Iamello, there’s certain Canada-wide, Quebec-friendly factors that are also contributing to Montreal’s attractiveness.

“We’re offering better immigration laws that are more attractive for certain types of people than in the US. Our dollar is also down recently, and that’s always a big swing factor. And then you have to consider cheaper labour and real estate costs, especially in Montreal. It’s not like Silicon Valley or New York, where rent is through the roof, and unemployment is near zero in tech fields. Montreal has capacity that few other places offer.”

But the Gazette’s Serebrin pointed out that, like every other large North American city, Montreal’s population is aging. The number of people retiring in Quebec already exceeds the number of people entering the workforce, according to the Conseil du patronat du Québec.

“Can we sustain this pace? In the near term, I think yes. In the medium and long term, we have to enlarge the pool of skilled workers and it will depend on our immigration and education systems,” Bernard said.

Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario (California), Phoenix, Dallas and Seattle rounded out the top five. Toronto, the only other Canadian city on the list, was sixth, with an employment growth rate of 2.32 per cent.

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