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Mark J. Barrenechea is President and CEO of OpenText Corporation.
California’s Highway 101 stretches 95 kilometres between San Francisco and San Jose, connecting small and large technology companies, students, innovators and venture capitalists. Nestled around Highway 101 is the largest innovation corridor in the world – Silicon Valley.
Similarly, Ontario’s tree-lined Highway 401 stretches 115 kilometres between Toronto and Waterloo, also connecting small and large technology companies, students, innovators and venture capitalists. Last year, this Ontario corridor surpassed all other cities and regions and became the world’s second largest innovation corridor. It is the Silicon Valley of the North.
In my 25 years in technology, I have traveled both valleys end-to-end and the similarities between the two corridors are more striking than their differences.
Silicon Valley employs approximately 380,000 tech workers; the Toronto-Waterloo corridor has nearly 280,000. The Waterloo Region boasts nearly 1,000 companies, contributing more than $30-billion annually to the global economy. In 2013, Startup Genome ranked Waterloo as 16th among the world’s 20 global startup hubs.
For Ontario to sustain this innovative trajectory it needs the confluence of three key forces: talent, capital and attitude.
Talent. The Ontario corridor is home to early stage companies, large multinationals, government agencies, academic institutions and technology incubators – all focused on innovation. In fact, almost 60 per cent of Canada’s innovation activity occurs here and with access to a pool of talent added to the mix, the corridor offers the perfect landscape for entrepreneurs. To remain competitive, companies must recruit the best talent, have access to R&D resources, and forge relationships with robust start-up communities. That’s why OpenText opted to work with the Ontario Government to invest $2-billion and create 1,200 new jobs over the next seven years in the province.
Economist Enrico Moretti once said in The New Geography of Jobs that “for each new high-tech job in a city, five additional jobs are ultimately created outside of the high-tech sector in that city, both in skilled occupations (lawyers, teachers, nurses) and in unskilled ones (waiters, hairdressers, carpenters).” What is more, innovation “has a disproportionate effect on the economy of American communities. Most sectors have a multiplier effect, but the innovation sector has the largest multiplier of all: about three times larger than that of manufacturing.” Moretti has it right. Ontario has it right.
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