June 10, 2014 4:51 pm

Ontario Election: Tech start-ups say transit major issue for Kitchener-Waterloo

The office that Mitchell Butler works in is a wide open concept, and the kind of place that you can’t tell employee from employer.

Work spaces form small circles, Nerf guns dot the occasional shelf and there are bean bag chairs behind a glass wall if anyone is looking to take a nap.

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Butler says this is what high tech start-ups look like in Kitchener-Waterloo, a region that is growing, despite job losses from manufacturing and more recently, Blackberry.

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Art Sinclair, vice-president of the Greater Kitchener-Waterloo Chamber of Commerce, says the region is “creating jobs and growing” – he notes a projection by the province that says, “about 750-thousand people will live and work in the region in 20 years.”

Butler is a co-founder of, MappedIn, a growing company that designs navigation kiosks, largely for retail outlets.

He and four former University of Waterloo students started the business about four years ago, two of the founders have since moved on, but the remaining will almost double their staff to 30 employees by the end of 2014.

Butler says if his company is going to keep growing he needs results from the 2014 provincial election. He lives in Toronto and commutes to Kitchener-Waterloo at least three days a week, “it’s hard to get down [to Kitchener] in the morning,” he said. “Especially if I’m trying to take the train – it’s impossible.”

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Butler says it’s difficult because there are two GO trains that leave Kitchener in the morning – and then return in the evening..

“Any kind of connection between Toronto and Kitchener is mutually beneficial – for both cities”, he says.

Fellow start-up founder and former Blackberry employee Adam Belsher has the same philosophy. He lives in the region, but as the CFO is trying to grow his company, Magnet Forensics, “you’re limited by the size of this community,” said Belsher, “if you have transportation, it really opens up talent.”

Magnet Forensics has its eye on becoming an international company – Belsher says, if the link between Toronto and the K-W region doesn’t improve – they may have to consider re-location.

“The link between Toronto is really, really important for this community,” said Belsher.

The chamber of Commerce knows how important transit is, and Sinclair says “we have to move goods and people.”

The growing jobs and population are the region’s greatest selling points he continues, “we’re creating jobs that are going to provide revenue for provincial and federal governments.”

Sinclair’s message to all levels of government; “if you invest in us – we can provide a return.”

© Shaw Media, 2014

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