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Location Still Key For Canadian Workers

Written by Posted On Tuesday, 08 June 2004 00:00

On June 4, telecommuters across Canada -- and many "wannabees" -- celebrated National Telework Day, but for some Canadian workers this was a sad day. Technology can move work home -- from offices into houses, condos, cottages and boats -- however, most Canadians must still live where the work is, whether they like it or not.

Technology is credited with reducing real estate's emphasis on "location, location, location" as long-distance working becomes increasingly cost-effective for companies and employees alike. However, practical concerns like having to show up to do your work continue to make physical location a key value factor in many real estate purchases.

James Walker [name changed] spent seven wonderful and frustrating weeks in Vancouver, British Columbia, a place he'd love to call home. "Wonderful" because he loved the city and the lifestyle; "frustrating" because even with his considerable IT skills and experience, and an aggressive search, Walker was forced to return to Ontario jobless. In Toronto, he can find the work he wants even if this city is not his first choice as home base.

During the last in a cross-Canada series of TechAction Town Halls sponsored by the Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance (CATA), Toronto Mayor David Miller announced that a new study of the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) sector in the Toronto area ranks the city of Toronto ahead of Montreal and Ottawa for its concentration of private information and communication technologies facilities in Canada. Toronto was also rated as third largest ICT employer in North America, behind only San Francisco and New York City.

"Toronto's diverse economy makes this city a very attractive place for high tech companies to invest, said Mayor Miller. "The ICT sector is unusually well integrated into the fabric of Toronto's other leading industries, from biotechnology to manufacturing to financial services. Not only does this enhance those other business sectors, it ensures that the city's information and communications companies can weather economic busts and make the most of booms."

The City of Toronto is a major player in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), which as an economic area consists of 25 municipalities and four regions in a total area of over 7,000 square kilometers with a population of more than 5 million. With a work force of approximately 3 million people and more than 100,000 companies, the GTA is Canada's business and manufacturing capital.

The "Toronto Region Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) Industry" study was conducted in partnership with the Greater Toronto Marketing Alliance and the City of Toronto with support from Ontario's Ministry of Economic Development and Trade and support from the Government of Canada's Program for Export Market Development-Investment.

Future employment patterns also look strong since 89 per cent of Toronto-area ICT firms surveyed felt they would grow as fast as or faster than the rate of the economy over the next year. Towards that end, 65 per cent indicated they planned to invest in their facilities in the near future.

CATA concurrently released its own study, a survey of Toronto's executive community, which revealed that 88 percent of advanced technology executives are confident that they live and work in a vibrant, sustainable community and that 60 per cent feel that Toronto has the right mix of business sectors to create sustainable prosperity.

But the research revealed barriers to growth as well. Access to venture capital money and government incentives are considered Toronto's greatest financial challenges. A majority of CATA respondents indicated government needs to make Canada's business tax regime more internationally competitive to support innovation.

Although telecommuting and telework continue to become more common, living where the jobs are will continue to put the emphasis on location for many Canadian real estate owners and buyers.

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