Ottawa moves up in CBRE’s annual ranking of tech hubs, but fails to break top 10

Ottawa tech talent

Ottawa has moved up to 11th place in CBRE’s annual ranking of Canadian and U.S. tech hubs, failing to crack the top 10 for the second straight year but continuing its reign at the top of tech talent concentration list among all 50 North American markets measured. 

The capital’s ranking is an improvement from last year’s 13th-place finish. Ottawa scored just ahead of Montreal and closely followed Denver with 57.8 points, up from 55.51 points in 2022.

CBRE’s Scoring Tech Talent 2023 report ranks 50 North American markets according to each city’s ability to attract and grow tech talent. The survey measures more than a dozen metrics, including tech graduation rates, tech-job concentration and tech labour pool size as well as labour and real estate costs, among other factors.

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After cracking the top 10 for the first time in 2021, Ottawa fell three spots in last year’s rankings. The top five cities remained the same as last year, with the San Francisco Bay Area, Seattle, New York Metro, Washington, D.C. and Toronto leading the charge. 

“The scorecard shows how competitive and tightly clustered the top tech markets are right now,” said Paul Morassutti, CBRE Canada chairman. 

“After a period of hyper-growth, the global tech sector is facing headwinds, and like many other sectors of the economy, tech has had to adjust to changing economic circumstances with office right-sizing and layoffs.”

According to the report, Ottawa has about 94,100 tech employees, a significant increase from last year’s 81,200, with positions predominantly in government, core high-tech, professional services, manufacturing and information. 

Tech talent comprises 13.3 per cent of total employment in Ottawa and 11.6 per cent in the San Francisco Bay Area – the highest concentrations and more than double the 50-market average of 5.6 per cent.

(By contrast, the latest data from Statistics Canada – which defines tech employment more narrowly around information and communication technology firms – says about 52,000 local residents are employed in tech fields.)

Canadian cities as a whole have a competitive advantage over their U.S. counterparts, the report added, owing to the relatively more affordable cost of hiring tech talent. Total operating costs for tech firms increased in 2022 due to higher wages, even as many organizations reduced real estate footprints. 

Colin Yasukochi, executive director of CBRE’s Tech Insights Center in San Francisco, said despite a slower economy and layoffs, the labour market for tech talent is “very competitive.”

“However, it’s loosened enough to create hiring opportunities for non-tech companies,” said Yasukochi. “As tech talent gets redistributed across other industries, our economy becomes more digital and that could spur new growth for the tech industry. 

“Artificial intelligence has seen a surge in venture capital funding, a positive indicator for the future growth of tech.”

Tech talent is also becoming younger in North America’s leading tech centres. Over half of the top 50 tech markets saw the total number of residents in their 30s increase since 2016, and Salt Lake City, Madison, Wisc., and Waterloo Region had the highest concentration of residents in their 20s.

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