Kanata North tech boom continues upward trend, despite traffic, housing issues

In-car QNX Software technology is pictured in Ottawa on July 13, 2012. At a meeting held by the Kanata North BIA on Monday, the organization announced exponential growth in Ottawa's tech sector.
In-car QNX Software technology is pictured in Ottawa on July 13, 2012. At a meeting held by the Kanata North BIA on Monday, the organization announced exponential growth in Ottawa's tech sector. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Tech companies in Kanata have seen exponential growth in the last three years, boosting employment and adding over $170 million to the local economy.

At a meeting held by the Kanata North Business Improvement Association on Thursday, the group released a report showing the economic impact tech companies have had on the area over the last three years.

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By the numbers:

According to the report, on the local side of things, tech companies have recorded returns of $170 million to the city of Ottawa’s economy in 2018, a 16 per cent increase since 2015.

Currently, there are 19,477 tech sector jobs in the area alone. That’s an increase of 18 per cent from 2015. Total jobs, which includes service industry, manufacturing and tech jobs, have reached 33,236, an increase of nine per cent.

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Tech companies are using the growth stats to influence talent to choose Ottawa over Silicon Valley or China, said Grant Courville, vice president of product management and strategy at QNX, which among other things develops self-driving technology for cars.

“It was all positive,” Courville said. “It’s growth, growth, growth and you can see the economic benefits. Across the board, everything is good news. It’s a fantastic story for Kanata, it’s a fantastic story for Ottawa, for Ontario and for Canada.”

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Local effects

Growth like this comes with hiccups, though. March Road in the mornings is notoriously busy and is only getting more congested as more jobs are added to the area. The BIA announced at the meeting that it will be conducting a survey to further understand the impacts this traffic has on the area. It will share the results with the city.

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Coun. Jenna Sudds, who had served as director of the BIA before running for office, was on hand at the meeting and spoke not only about the traffic initiative but also to the positives of job growth in the area and some of the negative impacts of a city that’s not quite keeping up to the speed of growth.

“I think it’s a fantastic initiative,” Sudds said. “That input will help to inform myself. During my campaign and knocking on thousands of doors it certainly was a topic of conversation.”

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Sudds said the timing is perfect for a survey like this as the city is set to open its books on the transportation master plan in 2019.

“It’s a great opportunity for myself to make sure that our pain points and our infrastructure projects are included,” Sudds said.

Sudds also spoke to concerns about the impact that the influx of high paying tech jobs could have on housing in the area. In a similar situation, Silicon Valley housing has become more expensive due to the lack of it. According to Sudds, the neighbourhood has already begun feeling that to an extent, though alleviation is on the way.

“I think it’s fair to say we have already experienced a certain extent of that looking at housing in Kanata North,” Sudds said. “We have a lot of growth happening and not a lot when we look at housing stock. Of course, that does put pressures on pricing. I think that’s a reality of what’s happening here. As we are creating this economic engine it does come with some pressures.”

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Sudds also said there are plans to build 10,000 homes in the area over the next decade, but she is still concerned about the immediate need for housing.

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