Waterloo - Best Cities

Waterloo

Every country claims to have its own Silicon Valley, but when it comes to Canada, Waterloo walks the talk. The region—and more specifically the innovation rocket-launcher that is the University of Waterloo—has produced dozens of globally dominant companies, including BlackBerry and OpenText. More recently, the city has nurtured future high-fliers like ApplyBoard, Vidyard and Auvik Networks, with recent unicorns including Faire and Arctic Wolf, both with major offices in Waterloo and the United States. An astonishing 1,000-plus companies have been founded by UWaterloo grads, and, according to industry trackers, 18 per cent of all founders in Canada come from that school. Is it any wonder then that the city’s residents are the smartest in Canada (ranking #1 for Educational Attainment), as well as the tops in our Employment in Educational Pursuits subcategory? Waterloo isn’t the only driver of all those education jobs. Nearby Wilfred Laurier University and Conestoga College (consistently rated as one of the best technical colleges in Ontario) keep the city’s household income ranked #23 among Canada’s small cities, which is an impressive finish in a town full of students, as is the #50 Employment Rate ranking. Waterloo, in fact, leads Canada’s small cities in our Young Adults subcategory. This is music to the ears of HR managers at large local employers like Sun Life Financial, Manulife Financial, Sandvine and the universities and colleges, as well as at the city’s three well-known think tanks: the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics, the Institute for Quantum Computing and the Centre for International Governance Innovation.

The organization known as Canada’s Technology Triangle, a joint economic development initiative that markets the region internationally, has joined other city leaders in spotlighting the livability of the area that transcends tech employment. The region has always had plentiful green spaces (it ranks #16 for Parks & Outdoors) and an ongoing light rail and transit investment that Waterloo (which ranks #7 among small cities nationally for people who bike to work) continues to embrace and push for. Less reliance on a car means better access to the university town nightlife (ranked #13), which is fuelled by nearby Kitchener’s annual Oktoberfest—the largest celebration of its kind outside of Germany and a draw for over 700,000 people (pre-COVID, anyway). Given its penchant for all things Bavarian, it’s no wonder that Ontario’s craft beer craze got its start here: Brick Brewing (now Waterloo Brewing) was the province’s first craft brewer, opening in 1984.