December 6th: http://www.walrusmagazine.com/articles/2012.01-cities-the-invention-of-waterloo


August 29, 2011
A Google Ontarian returns home
By RICHARD BLACKWELL
From Monday's Globe and Mail

 
As head of the tech giant's Canadian operation, Chris O'Neill is focused on mobile applications at its Kitchener-Waterloo facility 

After five years as an executive in Google Inc.'s California operations, Chris O'Neill returned to his roots in 2010, moving to Toronto to run Google Canada, which is growing at an astronomical rate.
 
The company has sales and marketing operations in Toronto, government relations in Ottawa, and a small engineering office in Montreal. But most of the action is at its new facility in Ontario's high-tech hub of Kitchener-Waterloo, where an expanding work force is making crucial advances in mobile computing and social networks.
 
How does Canada compare with the rest of the world in its use of the Internet? From a consumer usage standpoint, Canada leads the world. We are the most wired nation. In the United States, more people spend time watching TV and less time on the Internet.
[However, there is] a gap in Canada between where consumers are, and where businesses are. We estimate that there are roughly two million small businesses in this country, and less than half of them have a website. That is a problem [because] consumers are out there actively looking for what businesses offer, and it really is a missed opportunity.
Why is Canada so far behind?  I think that Canadians' risk tolerance tends to be a little lower. That serves us well in certain ways, such as in the banking world. When it comes to technology, however, Canadian businesses could use a little more of that risk-taking entrepreneurial spirit. That doesn't mean it doesn't exist - we could just use much more of it.
What about big businesses and the Internet? I think a lot of companies are still in an experimental phase. They are past the point of wondering whether this is a fad or not, but they really haven't organized to fully capture the benefits of the Web.
What is happening at your engineering group in Kitchener-Waterloo?
I think it is one of the crown jewels of Canada. [We have about] 170 world-class developers. They work on all of our commerce-related efforts, including things such as Google Offers, which is similar to what Groupon does. They are behind [the social network] Google+, from a mobile perspective. And there are some smaller experimental things that happen. A lot of companies that become bigger lose their edge and they don't innovate at the same pace. I see [our Kitchener group] as a perfect marriage of the entrepreneurial spirit, living within a large company.
Why is Waterloo a good place for that innovation? There are a lot of ingredients. The connection to the university is fundamental. Research In Motion has an important role in this - you have a lot of startups there, spun off RIM. It creates a little bit of a halo effect. The depth and the sheer talent around mobile applications is astounding.
With your staff growing at more than 50 per cent a year, how do you make sure you are hiring the right people? We rely primarily on referrals. There is no better source of information than people who have succeeded here and who can tap into their pool of professional or school friends. [Then] we have a very rigorous process that we put people through. We look at world-related knowledge and experience. We look for leadership. We look for people who can not only solve today's problems, but can solve tomorrow's problems.
In a company that is growing as fast as we are, and is pushing the envelope on innovation, I don't want a specialist who can only do one or two things. We need people who can really morph and pivot into the next three or four or five problems that we will be solving. And lastly, we call it Googliness - whether the person is a good fit.
What is your strategy for getting into social networking with your Google+ product? If you think about the Web, it has gone from hyperlinks to applications, and the next evolution is people. To maintain relevance in a world that is increasingly personal, we have to have a relevant social offering.
We started to look at the different social networks and we said, there has got to be a better way. I've stopped using Facebook because I had too many friends and I'm not comfortable sharing, and frankly I don't want to hear from random people.
Our solution is essentially social networking that reflects real life. [On Google+], I have a "circle" for my family and I share very different things with them than I would with my colleagues. Real life doesn't work like one monolithic blob of friends.
How important is it for Google to be successful in social networking? It is essential. We have this explosion of the Web, and we are going to rely on people that we know and love and trust to help us distill this massive amount of information down to something that is meaningful. If you don't figure out how to [do that] in a way that helps you cut through the clutter, the technology will only get you so far.
Are mobile devices where much of the action is? About one-third of the phones in Canada are smart phones, and we expect that to be 50 per cent by 2014. The mobile Web itself is growing about eight times faster than the desktop Web did. Everything we do has a mobile implementation first. It really is a game changer.
Will advertisers approach the Internet differently as mobile computing takes hold? I think they need to. The data we have suggest that 20 per cent of companies have a mobile-optimized site. So if you go to 80 per cent of business [sites] today, you are trying to navigate through their Web-based site and it is really annoying. You have to think about mobile differently [because] people are typically on the go.
What can other companies learn from Google's success? [A key approach is our] notion of sharing everything, being really open and trusting employees. That's actually surprisingly rare.
Taking risk is important. You have to say "yes" more than you say "no." I'm continually amazed by our engineers who maintain childlike curiosity. It is amazing to spend time with them because they ask "why" or "why not" about 20 times a day.
[Businesses need] to strive for continual innovation, as opposed to instant perfection. If you are not kind of embarrassed about your beta launch, or your first product prototype, then you probably waited too long. You have to launch and iterate. That's what we do. We have maintained a sense of entrepreneurialism, even though we are getting large.
Is lack of innovation a problem for Canada? It is the No. 1 issue [and] it has to do with risk. People glamorize Silicon Valley and [imagine] there are these geniuses there who can do no wrong. [But] most successful entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley have had one, two, three failures, and they have learned from them. They celebrate it as almost a badge of honour. Smart venture capitalists look for people who have failed.
There are other pieces in the Canadian eco-system that need to be addressed as well. We need to have better financing of startups. Part of the success of Waterloo, and certainly of Silicon Valley, is mentors. People collaborate and share information, and are okay with that.
How worried are you about competition? There is a kid somewhere in a garage who is literally creating the next Google out there. Google is a very young company, so not only are we healthily paranoid about those sorts of things, [it also] drives us to continue to push the envelope and innovate. Competition forces us to do new and big things.
Didn't you start your working life in the low-tech world, on the floor of Canadian Tire stores? My father was a franchisee of Canadian Tire. He started in Acton, Ont., and then moved to Goderich, where I really spent most of my time growing up. One day you are putting together a bike or a barbecue, the next you are mopping the floor or unloading the truck. You do everything.
What did you learn there that stayed with you?  Everyone in their life should work in retail, or as a server in a restaurant. You learn a lot about customers and customer service. You learn a lot about people. I certainly did.
 

Waterloo Region ranks second among Canada’s urban economies

Record staff
July 18, 2011 

TORONTO – Waterloo Region has the second best performing economy among Canadian urban centres, according to a new report from CIBC.

The Kitchener-Cambridge-Waterloo census metropolitan area trails only Toronto in the latest Canadian Metropolitan Economic Activity Index rankings from CIBC World Markets. The index measures economic momentum.

Waterloo Region ranked fourth in the previous index, the bank said Monday.

The improvement “reflects a very strong labour market, healthy population growth, relatively high quality employment and a low level of business bankruptcies,” the bank said in a news release.

CIBC said Toronto ranked first among the country’s 25 largest urban areas because its economy is firing on multiple cylinders. It said Toronto’s labour and housing markets remain vibrant as a diversity of sectors gain momentum.

Winnipeg, Regina and Montreal followed Waterloo Region in the rankings.

CIBC says overall, the metropolitan index lost some ground compared to the first quarter of last year, but still indicates that city economies are growing at a healthy pace. 

 

 

Major transit expansion approved 

By Jeff Outhit, Record staff
May 25, 2011

WATERLOO REGION — Regional councillors have approved details of the largest transit expansion in the history of Grand River Transit.

The expansion will cost taxpayers about $5 million a year. It launches partly in June and partly on Sept. 5. Highlights include:

A new express service on Fischer-Hallman Road in Kitchener and Waterloo.

More frequent service on a variety of Cambridge routes.

The redesign and realignment of several other routes, to increase frequency and speeds.

Extra buses for the intercity express service June 27, increasing frequency to every 10 minutes on weekdays.

Council approved the expansion in the 2011 budget, hiking taxes by 1.2 per cent to pay for it. Bus fares will also rise July 1.

It’s the launch of a 23-year transportation plan to build rapid transit and establish cross-town express routes to feed passengers into rapid transit. The plan, fuelled by annual tax increases estimated at up to 1.5 per cent, aims to make residents four times more likely to ride transit.

Chair Ken Seiling sees it as a first step to a better-balanced transportation system. “The road system certainly can’t sustain unbridled growth,” he said. “Improving the bus service, if we want to give people alternatives, is a key part of it.”

“We’re really glad to see the improvements that are coming this year,” said Michael Druker, of the pro-transit Tri-Cities Transport Action Group.

Tuesday’s vote to expand transit was not without challenges.

After residents objected, council delayed a planning recommendation to streamline a west Kitchener route that shuttles passengers into the downtown.

Planning staff want Route 20 shortened because it is frequently delayed by traffic. This causes frustrated passengers to miss downtown connections, discouraging transit use.

However, streamlining the route would force some passengers to walk farther. Affected passengers complained this would also discourage transit use.

Planners warned politicians to expect similar challenges as they try to make buses faster and more reliable, while also meeting demands for slower routes that meander through subdivisions.  




May 18, 2011
Google's big bet on Canada 
 
By OMAR EL AKKAD, Globe & Mail
KITCHENER, ONT.

 
Brand new facility in Kitchener-Waterloo could be the most important hub outside of California

Google Inc. GOOG-Qunveiled its new Kitchener-Waterloo offices to the public, completing the transformation of what was once a tiny corporate outpost into perhaps the search engine's most important hub outside the United States.
 
In a gala that drew three MPs, countless engineers and all of Kitchener's city council, Google gave visitors a tour of its brand new 34,000-square-foot facility in Kitchener, Ont.'s Tannery district, just a few kilometres south of the University of Waterloo.
The new office, marked by Google's trademark use of primary colours and assortment of pinball and video game machines, represents an aggressive attempt to become a bigger player in the Kitchener-Waterloo tech ecosystem.
 
One of the hallmarks of the $30-million development project to which Google has relocated is its abundance of technology startups. Just one floor below Google's offices is the headquarters of Communitech, a not-for-profit organization that provides office space and other support to Waterloo-based startups.
 
Fuelled by the University of Waterloo, the Kitchener-Waterloo region has become one of the most prolific producers of young engineering talent in the world. Research In Motion Ltd. has long been the central corporate player in the area, thanks in large part to its co-founder's association with - and multiple donations to - the university.
 
"We have enormous respect for RIM ... but there's room in this community for many different ways of innovating ," said Steve Woods, the head of the Kitchener office and the man charged with finding and arranging Google's corporate acquisitions in Canada. "There's more than enough talent to go around."
 
Indeed, Wednesday's event also included the announcement of multiple gifts from Google to the University of Waterloo. The biggest of those gifts is a grant worth almost $1-million to help academics in the school's mathematics and computer science departments study how to separate information from noise on social networks - something Google is interested in figuring out, as social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter continue to erode the company's traditional dominance in Web search.
 
Outside the company's global headquarters in Mountain View, Calif., few offices have proved as vital to Google as the Kitchener-Waterloo location. Initially, Google's presence in the region was minimal - the result of the acquisition of a mobile technology company in the area. As Stuart Feldman, Google's vice-president of engineering for the east coast put it, Google's first office had 22 employees and 20 chairs. Today, 170 engineers work at Google's new office, making it the largest in Canada.
 
In the past few years, the kind of mobile technology Google's Kitchener-Waterloo office specializes in has become perhaps the most important priority for Google's overall business strategy, as the search engine looks to cash in on the smart phone revolution with software such as the Android and Chrome operating systems for mobile devices.
In particular, Chrome, the project that started out as a Google-built browser but has since expanded to a browser-based operating system, has become almost entirely driven by the engineers in Kitchener-Waterloo. And as Google moves to sell its own Chrome-powered laptops, the software and the engineers building it have become more of a corporate priority.
 
As such, several Google positions that would have otherwise been reserved for offices in places like New York City have instead been allocated to the Kitchener-Waterloo region, as Google tries to pick up the best talent and startups in the region.
 
"All Google engineers are good," Mr. Feldman said. "But these ones are really good."

 

Waterloo adopts groundbreaking transportation plan
 Terry Pender, Record staff  May 12, 2011

WATERLOO — This city’s new groundbreaking transportation master plan gives pedestrians and cyclists the same importance as cars when streets are being built or reconstructed.

When city councillors adopted the new plan they enshrined the doctrine of “Complete Streets” as official-municipal policy.

“Plan, design, operate and maintain streets to enable all users of all ages and abilities — pedestrians, cyclists, transit users and motorists — to safely move along and across city streets,” the Transportation Master Plan, says.

Phil Hewitson, the city’s director of transportation, says the inclusion of “Complete Streets” is a huge shift.

“Years ago when we designed a road we were only concerned about the cars, well they are the least vulnerable and the other users are the most vulnerable,” Hewitson said.

“I think it is a big change, typically traffic engineers only worry about cars,” he said.

The overwhelming majority of car trips in Waterloo are less than eight kilometres long and could be easily done by a healthy adult on a bicycle. In Ward 4 in the city’s northeast 63 per cent of car trips are less than eight kilometres. That figures increases to 80 per cent in Ward 7, the central part of the city.

“That is kind of a motivating factor for us to look at how we can provide more cost-effective-transportation options,” Hewitson said. “Widening roads is a very expensive option. So if we can get some people out of their cars and cycling, walking or using transit, we will see a slower-growth rate in traffic.”

If active and sustainable transportation is not increased the city will have to pay an additional $27 million for wider roads and more turning lanes for intersections, plus the cost of buying adjacent lands, during the next 20 years.

The old approach would mean another 40 kilometres or roadway must be added to the city’s system of 781 kilometres. Nearly half of that existing system is deficient and needs $172 million to bring them up to standard.

Instead of that the new Transportation Master Plan calls for spending $7.5 during that period to complete 160 kilometres of on-road bike lanes and trails.

Rob McIntosh, who rides his bicycle to work every day and is a founder of Waterloo Bikes, supports the new plan but wants to see city councillors implementing it before he gets excited.

“It sounds promising,” he said, “but I am coming to the realization it is not that easy when votes are on the line and dollars are being spent.”

But Coun. Diane Freeman believes city councillors will fund recommendations that save the taxpayers money in the long run.

Local streets have to be redesigned and rebuilt anyway and this new plan clearly states what the city wants, she said.

“I am thrilled about it because it finally gets to the notion our transportation system is used by a lot of different people and the city has to find a way to accommodate all of them,” Freeman said.

The city cannot encourage people to walk, cycle and ride bicycles unless it puts in place the infrastructure to support active transportation and that’s what the new plan is all about, she said.

“We are pretty sure we are first in Ontario and there is a very-high probability we are the first in Canada,” Freeman said of the city’s adoption of Complete Streets.

Many of the principles were put into practise with the redesign and re-construction of Davenport Road, from Old Abbey to Lexington.

It used to be a four-lane roadway with more than its share of accidents and at least one pedestrian fatality. Lexington now has Boulevard islands five metres wide, bike lanes on each side, safer crossings for pedestrians and two lanes for vehicles instead of four.

A bicycle box will be built at the intersection with Lexington Road that allows cyclists to move to the front of the line at a red light and be the first through the intersection when it turns green.

Bearinger Road, between Albert and Westmount, saw similar changes put in place. Planning is underway for changes to a couple of sections of Columbia Street as well.

Chris Hodgson, the project manager in Waterloo’s transportation department, said active transportation will save the city money.

“If we don’t do that there will be pressure to start widening intersections and roads, which have high capital and maintenance costs, which is something we really can’t afford,” he said.

“The city will have to pay costs somewhere along the line, it could be $30 plus million or it could be $200,000 a year,” Hodgson said.

The new master plan recommends the city start clearing snow from sidewalks, starting with areas that have a lot of pedestrians, seniors’ homes and transit stops.

“It’s the age old argument. If people can’t get to a transit stop how do you expect people to take transit?” Hodgson said.

Walking, cycling and transit are key elements for any sustainable and livable city, Hewitson said.

“If you have six-lane roads everywhere it means you have lots of cars and it is really hard to walk or cycle in that environment,” he said. “I think Complete Streets is really putting the focus where it needs to be — thinking about the most vulnerable user first and then designing around that.”

For inspiration, Waterloo looked to Boulder, Colorado. Both cities are similar in size, both have universities and both have cold winters with snow.

“They have been very successful at getting people to cycle and walk,” Hewitson. “They have made significant investments in cycling infrastructure. So it can be done, even in North America.”

When the traffic department studies a neighbourhood it will also include data on pedestrians and cyclists. Up until now, only cars were counted. 


Accelerating the pace
Number of graduations on the rise at local high-tech business incubator

BOB VRBANAC, Chronicle Staff
Published on Mar 29, 2011

Last week’s graduation ceremony for two Accelerator program clients wasn’t notable for the fact that two more hightech startups are ready to leave the business incubator and set up their own shops.

It’s the pace of those graduations that has become the story.

While it took a while to get the first one out the door after the centre opened in 2006 to foster the next generation of high-tech startups, in the last year six more graduates of the program have had a similar ceremony.

The latest ones are ClevrU, which started in September 2010 in the new joint program set up between the Accelerator Centre and The Communitech Hub, and Tangam Systems, founded in 2004 by University of Waterloo graduates.

“It used to be we’d have a graduate every six months, now every quarter we’re seeing graduates,” said Tim Jackson, CEO of the Accelerator Centre.

“It really shows two things — one, the entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well in Waterloo Region, and it shows that the Accelerator program is working.” In fact, the Accelerator Centre’s chief operating officer Tim Ellis was in Australia last week to share that success story with counterparts interested in setting up something similar there. And people from around the world are making a bee line to this area to see why the model has become so succesful.

“What we’ve built here in Waterloo Region is really a model that the rest of the world is looking for,” said Jackson.

“I was in Kenya two weeks ago helping a foundation there look whether they should establish an Accelerator Centre.

“People globally are looking at what we’re doing and saying something is going on in Waterloo Region and our challenge now is how to export that. We’ll try to help those regions and in turn bring in some revenue for our companies here.” ClevrU has been a case study for moving a startup from idea to a full-fledged international business looking to secure contracts for its e-teaching technology in markets in China and India.

It started with a conversation at the Digital Media Forum in Stratford last May.

By lunch time, the company’s CEO and president Dana Fox, a former business professor at Wilfrid Laurier University, had started a new business with his partners Bill Waters, David Murdoch and Tushar Singh.

After last week’s ceremony, Fox made his second visit to Chongqing, China to explore the possibilities of delivering his company’s technology — bringing the classroom experience to individual personal data devices like BlackBerrys — to a market of more than 220 million people in rural China.

“This is a magical place where special things happen,” said Fox, who has been an enthusiastic promoter of the support and services he got through the accelerator program, and of working out of what he calls the “sandbox” at the Communitech Hub.

“If you look at the resources you would never be able to pull this together on your own.

“It makes it easier for you to leverage your idea into something that is much bigger, faster,” he said.

“It’s absolutely an accelerator centre, and when you wander around here you get what we call ‘collisions’ . . . and everybody is here to share.”  


Local growth resumes its pace after slow year
The Record

WATERLOO REGION — New reports suggest the community has resumed growing at its normal pace, and is meeting its plan to put new homes into existing neighbourhoods.

The regional population reached 543,700 at the end of 2010, regional government planners estimate. That’s an increase of 9,000 residents, a strong rebound after the population grew by only 3,300 in 2009.

The rate of growth in 2010 matches the 15-year average. It keeps the population on track to reach a planning forecast of 729,000 by 2031.

A regional report concludes: “The region’s continuing growth represents the diversity of the local economy, low interest rates, and the community’s desirability from a quality of life point of view.”

Meanwhile, builders in 2010 placed 56 per cent of new residences onto lands already developed in 2006, deemed a baseline year. This exceeds a planning target of 40 per cent established by the province.

The legislated intensification target is intended to make the community more compact and efficient, curbing suburban growth into green fields. The region has exceeded the target three times in the last five years. The intensification target doesn’t actually take effect until 2015.

Industrial, commercial and institutional buildings are also settling mostly in built-up areas, a regional report shows.

The latest population estimate includes 39,030 university and college students who are often excluded from census counts. Most live in Waterloo.

Statistics Canada estimates Waterloo Region recently surpassed London to become the 10th biggest urban area in the nation, behind Hamilton.

Woolwich grew by the fastest rate in 2010, but Kitchener added the most people.

2010 populations

Kitchener: 229,400

Cambridge: 129,400

Waterloo: 123,000

Woolwich: 22,660

Wilmot: 19,360

Wellesley: 10,570

North Dumfries: 9,410 



Guelph developer buys block on King Street East
By Terry Pender, Record staff


KITCHENER — A Guelph-based developer has bought an entire city block along King Street East and plans a mixed-use development with at least 250 residential units.
Fusion Homes closed the deal last month for the 2.4-acre block — bounded by King, Cameron, Charles and Madison streets — paying $3.6 million.
“We are planning a substantial mixed-use development on the property,” Lee Piccoli, president of Fusion Homes, said.
At least two highrise buildings are to be constructed and very likely some townhouses as well. The company will look into the demand for office and retail space in that area, but that will not be a large part of the project.
Piccoli did not want to speculate on when construction will begin.
“I am very bullish on downtown Kitchener,” Piccoli said. “When the opportunity came up, we jumped at it.”
Surface-parking lots now dominate the block where a used-car lot and a car rental agency operate.
“I think as a developer you’re always trying to see something, not as it looks now, but as it looks three or five years from now. So that is something that we found really attractive about the property,” Piccoli said.
King Street East has seen slow, steady improvement since the City of Kitchener built the $22-million farmers’ market, which opened in 2005.
Since then, three bakeries, two restaurants and a small grocery store have opened on adjacent blocks. Abandoned homes on Madison, Eby, Cedar and Duke streets have been renovated and occupied.
Fusion Homes’ move follows, by six years, the creation of a special program — called the economic development investment fund — that pumped about $100 million into different downtown projects.
“The mayor and the council seem really committed to the redevelopment,” Piccoli said.
Cory Bluhm, an urban planner who works with the city’s economic development department, is pleased to see the large private-sector investment in that property.
On the next block is one of the most handsome redevelopments in the downtown, the Betzner Brownstones, and that makes it doubly frustrating to look at surface-parking lots nearby, Bluhm said.
“You can see what they did with the Betzner Brownstones on the next block and you think: ‘Geez, why can’t somebody do the same thing there,’ ” Bluhm said.
Five years ago that land would probably have fetched $500,000 an acre. Fusion Homes paid about $1.5 million an acre.
The past 10 years have seen a growing list of high-density development in the core and central neighbourhoods, including — the Sandhills development and Iron Horse Towers on Queen Street South, the Kaufman Lofts on King Street, Lofts on Mansion, Le Marche Residences behind Your Kitchener Market, The Regency at Queen and Weber streets and the Drewlo apartments on Victoria Street South adjacent to Victoria Park.
The school of pharmacy, the medical school, the graduate school of social work, the redevelopment of the Lang Tanning building and the planned light-rail transit line are also hugely positive influences
By 2016, the provincial Places to Grow Act will require cities in the Greater Golden Horseshoe to direct 40 per cent of new development into existing neighbourhoods in central Kitchener, central Waterloo and the Galt section of Cambridge.
The legislation aims to curb urban sprawl over farmland. Kitchener has about a 20-year supply of land for new subdivisions, Waterloo is down to about 10 years and Cambridge is somewhere in between.
“For a company like ours, we are young, we are innovative, and we are cutting edge and we want to grow. To plan to grow just through building greenfields, I don’t think there is going to be enough product out there, to be honest,” Piccoli said.
“So part of our evolution as a company is to make the commitment to work with municipalities and the province to build more infill projects and more mixed-use projects and things like that,” Piccoli said.
 
 
Waterloo Region on the front line in province’s battle against urban sprawl
By Terry Pender, Record staff


WATERLOO REGION — Big changes are coming to this region’s three cities as another 200,000 people are expected to move here during the next 20 years.
Similar growth is predicted for many municipalities in the greater Golden Horseshoe area.
But Waterloo Region will be the testing ground for the Ontario government’s legislated attempt to slow urban sprawl, intensify existing urban areas and enhance public transit.
Without those moves the province fears more traffic jams, lost productivity, increased air pollution and bigger costs for expanded infrastructure will seriously compromise quality of life in the urban areas of the horseshoe.
The Region of Waterloo, quite literally, wrote the legislation the provincial government passed four years ago that aims to curb urban sprawl.
At the front line of the issue is the Region of Waterloo’s new Official Plan, which has established a countryside boundary beyond which no new subdivisions can be built for the next 20 years. In coming weeks the region’s Official Plan will get final approval from the province and then be open to appeals from developers.
If the countryside line withstands appeals to the Ontario Municipal Board, the provincial tribunal that rules on land-use disputes, other municipalities in the horseshoe may establish hard lines over which no suburb can sprawl.
The countryside line surrounds Kitchener, Waterloo and Cambridge. Lines are also etched around Ayr, New Hamburg, St. Agatha, St. Jacobs and Elmira. The region does not want any new residential construction outside these lines.
Kevin Eby, the region’s head of community planning, expects a dozen appeals to the municipal board related to the countryside line.
Douglas Stewart, the president of the Waterloo Region Homebuilders Association, said the development industry does not like the idea of a barrier that permanently prevents the construction of new suburbs.
“Is it the correct decision to say: ‘Forever thou shalt not give consideration?’ I think that’s what it comes back to,” Stewart said.
Stewart said the homebuilders’ association will decide on an appeal only after the province has approved the region’s new Official Plan.
But Stewart made it clear the developers do not even like to hear the word “sprawl.”
“The issue of sprawl in Waterloo Region is questionable,” Wilson said. “What we have had historically is planned growth. What we have is what the policy framework provided for.”
But that policy framework has undergone major changes and is about to be enshrined in the region’s Official Plan.
For much of the past decade, Eby has been at the centre of the changes. For him it comes down to a couple of very different visions for future of the region’s urban neighbourhoods.
If the region and cities take a business-as-usual approach, planners say, the road network will have to be expanded by 500 kilometres of traffic lanes — the equivalent of 25 new Hespeler Roads — at a cost of $1.1 billion, as the region’s population grows to an estimated 729,000 by 2031, up from the current 535,000.
Or, rapid transit can be used to carry people to stations along a central transit corridor that is flanked by high-density housing and walkable neighbourhoods and linking the three cities. Rapid transit would cost $790 million for trains or $585 million for buses. Both approaches still require some new roads, though — about 267 kilometres of traffic lanes at a cost of about $550 million.
Once land costs are taken into account, the two approaches may not be all that different when looking at price tags.
But either way, changes are already happening.
Since 2006 the region has documented the construction of 2,000 residential units and $775 million in non-residential construction within 800 metres of the proposed rapid-transit stations.
Seniors are selling their large suburban homes by the thousands. Many are moving into high-density buildings in central neighbourhoods.
A survey of building permits shows a clear trend: a significant decline in single detached homes in new suburbs and increasing residential construction within existing neighbourhoods.
Eby said without the intensification of neighbourhoods along a central transit corridor, the urban spine of the three cities, many existing residential streets will be disrupted by expanded regional roads snarled with traffic twice a day.
He referred to a map that shows the steady growth of suburbs from 1960 to 2000 in this region. During that period a thick ring of suburbia was built around Kitchener, Waterloo and Cambridge.
“Lot levies and development charges paid for most of the infrastructure to support that suburban growth,” Eby said. “That will all have to be replaced in the next 20 to 40 years on the taxpayers’ tab.”
It is financially prudent to limit sprawl, he said.
After four decades of suburban growth, Waterloo Region now leads the province in meeting targets for reducing the construction of new suburbs on old farms.
In 1991 about five per cent of residential construction in Waterloo Region was infill, building in previously developed areas. In 2001 it was about 15 per cent. Now, between 35 per cent and 45 per cent of new housing occurs in built-up areas.
“It is like turning a really big ship. It does take time. There are thousands of decisions to be made by thousands of people,” Eby said.
The aim is to make better use of expensive investments in roads, sidewalks, sewers, water mains and transit, and to reduce the loss of prime agricultural land to housing.
The region’s growth management strategy of 2003 had three main components — a hard boundary beyond which no new subdivisions would be allowed, intensification of existing neighbourhoods and the central transit corridor.
“People thought we were off the wall, to put it politely,” Eby said. “But we felt if we were going to develop an urban area that didn’t look like Brampton or Mississauga we had to do something very different.”
The provincial government liked the region’s plan so much Eby was seconded to Queen’s Park to help write the provincial legislation that would limit urban sprawl in the Greater Golden Horseshoe.
The result was the Places to Grow Act of 2006, which requires municipalities in the Greater Golden Horseshoe to keep 40 per cent of all new residential development within existing neighbourhoods by 2015.
Last year the region was getting very close to that target and in the first half of this year it actually exceeded that goal. In 2009, the region issued 2,769 building permits. About 37 per cent or 1,034 were for residential units in built-up areas. During the first six months of this year, 45 per cent of permits were for residential units in built-up areas.
“We have managed to virtually achieve the type of implementation that most municipalities would be lucky to achieve by 2015 or even 2020,” Eby said.
Rapid transit is one of the key parts of the growth management plan.
Accommodating another 200,000 people by constructing more car-dependent suburbs would require a 25 per cent expansion of the network of regional roads, said Graham Vincent, the region’s director of transportation planning.
“With about 40 per cent of the land in our urban areas already being used for roads and parking, we cannot continue to consume this amount of land and remain sustainable,” Vincent says.
Rapid transit is critical to the region’s growth management plans.
“Are we planning for the people who live in the existing neighbourhoods now or are we planning for the movement of automobiles?” Eby said.
He said all of the pieces of the puzzle are coming together to manage growth in this region.
One of the biggest pieces of that puzzle is a big question mark: will the region’s new Official Plan withstand appeals to the municipal board?
tpender@therecord.com

Digital media ‘Hub’ opens in the Tannery building
By Rose Simone, Record staff


KITCHENER — It is a physical space where digital dreams will become reality.
But on Thursday, The Communitech Hub, a digital media and mobile accelerator centre, was itself a dream come true, as it officially opened on inside the 30,000-square-foot space it now occupies at the Tannery building in downtown Kitchener.
 
It is the home of more than 30 small early-stage digital media companies, but there is also a shared lobby area, and big companies such as Research In Motion, Open Text, Christie Digital and Agfa Heathcare have spaces there for showcasing new technology, collaborating and coaching the new companies.
 
Beyond One Eighty Ltd., run by 28-year-old Taylor Nicholls, is an example of a new emerging company located in The Hub. It makes advanced software that consolidates information on a computer screen, for military and security forces.
 
“Being in The Hub is fantastic,” Nicholls said. “I came here as a one-man company, but now it feels more like an eight-person company because of all the mentorship and the knowledge I am getting,” he added. “It is allowing me to take another look at my company and figure out how to position it to grow properly.”
 
Communitech is working in partnership with the Accelerator Centre in the University of Waterloo Research and Technology Park, which is managing the applications for the spaces in both centres.
Academic institutions, including Wilfrid Laurier University and Conestoga College, also have space in The Hub, to provide new companies with business, advertising and marketing expertise.
Laurier president Max Blouw said more than 1,000 Laurier graduates already work in the region’s technology companies.
 
“No matter how good the technology is, if you don’t have really good business skills business acumen and connections, you are going to struggle. So we are very much hoping that we can provide strength in that area and work with young companies and also some of the other partners that are in here,” Blouw said.
 
Meanwhile, Christie Digital has donated a “cave” to allow a person to walk into a virtual reality world, much like a Star Trek holodeck, and interact in a virtual showroom, or any other environment the companies want to simulate.
 
“Our vision is that young startup companies will be able to use this equipment that they could never afford to use at their early stage, and do amazing things with it,” said Bob Rushby, chief technology officer for Christie Digital.
 
The collaborative setting will accelerate the growth of new digital media companies in this region and in Canada, said Kevin Tuer, managing director of the Canadian Digital Media Network, which will have a home in The Hub, but is an organization that has already linked together eight digital media clusters across the country.
 
“This is their sandbox. This is where they can bump into each other often and have those conversations that will accelerate the entire commercialization process,” Tuer said.
 
Ian Klugman, president of Communitech, said $100 million in public and private sector funds has been raised to run The Hub over the next five years. About 40 per cent is from the public sector and 60 per cent comes from the private sector, he added.
 
The central reason for the heavy funding is simple — the global digital media market expected to grow into a $2.2 trillion industry.
 
This is “where the puck is going,” Klugman said in an interview. “We want to make sure that Waterloo Region companies, and Canadian companies, are going to be front and centre and be able to capture those new markets.”
 
Glen Murray, Ontario minister of research and innovation, said the Ontario government invested in The Hub because the province’s economy is undergoing a transformation.
 
“We are in a dynamic economy where production is being replaced by innovation,” Murray said.
“Digital media is changing all our lives,” said Tom Jenkins, executive chair and chief strategy officer of Open Text and the chair of the Canadian Digital Media Network.
 
In a global world, whatever is built in The Hub in Kitchener “will be used almost immediately around the world. That is an amazing thing to contemplate,” Jenkins said
 
“It will be very interesting to see what all these organizations and entrepreneurs come up with,” Jenkins added in an interview. “I don’t think we can even really imagine the creativity that will come out of this.”
 
Waterloo Region No. 2 place to invest in Canada: survey
Record staff


WATERLOO REGION — A diverse economy, strong post-secondary institutions and the planned investment in light rail transit makes Waterloo Region the second best place in Canada to invest in real estate, according to a survey by the Real Estate Investment Network.
Don Campbell, the network’s president, said Waterloo Region finished second behind Calgary in the snapshots of best Canadian cities to invest in between now and 2015. “We looked at what regions will outperform the average over the next five years,” he said in an interview Monday.
 
The survey by the network, a national organization comprised of real estate investor members, considered a variety of factors, including average household income, population growth and affordability of property, plus factors such as the transportation infrastructure.
 
The reportdescribes Waterloo Region as the “economic Alberta of Ontario,” in terms of investment potential for residential and commercial real estate, outperforming other cities in the province and in eastern Canada. Hamilton and the Barrie-Orillia area are the two other Ontario locations that made the list of 11 best Canadian places to invest in.
 
Campbell said a diverse economy and favourable geographic location, along with strong post-secondary institutions, were big factors in why Waterloo Region did so well.
 
The report also cited the region’s high-tech job growth. The investment in the information technology sector has protected the area from the steep economic downturn that affected other communities, the network’s report said.
 
The planned light rail transportation system will help to make the region a hot investment location for the future, Campbell said. “That will raise the region up on the world map, because it will be one of the smallest centres with its own regional light rail transportation line. That will be a factor in investment and it will also be a factor in attracting new residents from outside the Waterloo Region.”
 
Another major factor is the affordability of real estate relative to average household income, he said.
 
In past years, Waterloo Region has ranked as the best place in Ontario to invest in for real estate. This was the first year the network did rankings for all of Canada, Campbell said.
 
‘Waterloo on the radar of every business person,’ U.S. ambassador says
By Greg Mercer, Record staff

WATERLOO REGION — United States Ambassador to Canada David Jacobson paid his first visit to Waterloo Region — a place known around the world for innovation, he said — with radar, BlackBerrys and theoretical physics on his mind.
Before returning to Ottawa late yesterday afternoon, the former Chicago lawyer and President Obama fundraiser made three official visits here: at Research In Motion, the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics and Waterloo radar systems maker Raytheon Canada. The places he chose may say a lot about how this region is viewed as a centre for technology and research by his administration in Washington.
 
“I’ve known about Waterloo for quite some time, particularly about the innovation that goes on here between the business community, tech community and the universities,” Jacobson said, during an interview at the Record. “Waterloo is on the radar of every business person in the world.”
 
He described himself as “one of BlackBerry’s best customers” — and one of its first — and said the chance to meet with co-CEO Jim Balsillie at RIM’s world headquarters was a thrill. His boss, Barack Obama, is a well-known user of RIM’s smart phones.
 
“It’s kind of like going to the Holy Grail for me and my boss, the president,” Jacobson said.
He described his visit as a learning trip, part of his broader plan to get to know Canada better since becoming ambassador last October.
 
Yesterday afternoon, he was given a crash course in string theory and other out-there ideas in the world of physics from the Perimeter Institute. The ambassador met with institute director Neil Turok and wanted to know about how PI’s model of bringing together experts from various backgrounds could work for similar “centres of excellence” in African nations.
 
“I’m very interested in their efforts in math and science in Africa,” he said, before his visit.
Perimeter spokesperson John Matlock said the institute is “happy to share our model with the world,” and pleased the ambassador has taken an interest in its work. But Jacobson is far from the first international visitor to want to see the region’s successful formula for combining research and innovation with commercial ventures.
 
Jacobson’s final stop of the day was at Raytheon Canada, the company that makes all the radars used at U.S. airports. Jacobson wanted to know how the company’s high-frequency surface wave radar systems, recently bought by the Romanian government for surveillance on the Black Sea, could be used to improve American border security, said Raytheon general manager Brian Smith.
“He understood we had some very interesting technology in that sector and he wanted to see it first hand,” Smith said. “We’re not just on his radar, we are his radar.”
 
Jacobson also touched on a few issues that resonate outside the region, too. He said only Canadians should decide what kind of role the country takes in Afghanistan after 2011 — and that Washington has not asked Canada to do anything beyond that.
 
He stepped carefully on the issue, perhaps in light last month’s comments by Hillary Clinton that she was disappointed with Canada’s commitment to end its combat role next year. And he was speaking on the week that Canada lost another soldier in the Afghan mission — this one from nearby Bright, Ont.
 
Jacobson said he’d like Canada to remain in Afghanistan, but wouldn’t say in what capacity that should be.
 
“The United States wants all of its coalition partners, and that includes Canada, to stay as long as they can,” the ambassador said.
 
And he said his government has no interest in re-opening NAFTA, which may disappoint, but not surprise, those who feel the accord needs to better protect workers and the environment.
Jacobson also said the U.S. has more work to do to improve efficiency at the border, though he pointed out wait times for drivers have been reduced by a third since 2006 and by half for goods.
 
GO proposal calls for two train stations
Jeff Outhit RECORD STAFF

GO Transit would have two local train stations, not three, in a revised proposal made public last night.
The latest plan to extend commuter rail to Kitchener from Georgetown calls for:
A park-and-ride station east of Breslau, on Greenhouse Road near Highway 7.
A station in downtown Kitchener, where parking is constrained. GO would at first use the Via Rail station, then relocate to King Street to join with local rail transit.
Commuter rail to and from Toronto could arrive by 2011, but only if the provincial government agrees to fund the proposal. No cost estimate has been released.
"It can't come soon enough for me," said Teresa Maziarz, frustrated by her daily commute to Toronto on Greyhound. "I like the fact that we're so close to getting the GO train," Maziarz said.
Kitchener Centre MPP John Milloy said he will press to get GO Transit here. But he cautioned that his government would have to weigh the cost against other priorities. "The timing is tied to dollars," said Milloy. "You could see buses as an interim step."
GO has dismissed buses in its proposal, calling them less attractive than trains and inefficient without dedicated transit lanes.
The latest plans were released at a Kitchener information centre.
GO proposes four trains in the morning rush and four trains in the afternoon rush. Getting to Toronto would take 90 minutes. Fares are undetermined. Buses would run in the middle hours at first. Eventually, trains would run every 20 minutes in peak times and less frequently in-between.
The latest plan differs from a preliminary proposal last year. GO has incorporated feedback and studied environmental and property impacts. Among the changes:
The agency no longer favours a park-and-ride station in Breslau, due partly to traffic concerns.
The agency no longer favours a park-and-ride station on Ira Needles Boulevard in Kitchener. Instead, it proposes to park trains overnight at the Ira Needles site.
This favoured option depends on approval from the adjacent Hydro One transformer station. Plan B would be to park trains at Baden, near Sandhills Road.
Plan C could see trains parked overnight at Petersburg. It's no longer seen as the best site, due to concerns about bothering rural neighbours and use of farmland.
This was welcomed by Petersburg resident Ron Weber, alarmed by the prospect of trains parked near his home.
GO estimates that in 2011, 950 people would ride trains from Kitchener in the morning while 700 would ride into Kitchener.
By 2031, it's estimated 3,110 people would ride trains out of Kitchener in the morning while 1,980 would ride into Kitchener.
jouthit@therecord.com
 
High tech “creative sandbox” to get $26 million boost
By Luisa D’Amato, Record staff


KITCHENER — The province will invest more than $26 million in a centre that will be a type of clubhouse for companies, entrepreneurs and researchers involved in digital media to share ideas and help start new ventures.
It’s to be a “creative sandbox for technology makers and users,” said John Milloy, Minister of Research and Innovation and also Kitchener Centre’s MPP.
High-tech leaders from around Waterloo Region applauded when Milloy made the announcement on Friday. They were at a news conference in the Lang Tannery building in downtown Kitchener, where it is expected the centre will be.
Milloy said the world economy is changing, and Ontario has to be ready.
“Globally, the digital media market by 2012 will be worth $2.2 trillion,” he said. “Quite frankly, there’s a global competition on who’s going to be the leader.
“We have to position ourselves for the future. We have to position ourselves to be leaders.”
The term “digital media” can mean everything from special effects in movies, to the ability to send sophisticated images of brain scans to a doctor’s hand-held device.
Another example: If you were thinking of buying a laptop computer, the company might use digital media technology to send a message to your cellphone, letting you know that the laptop you’re interested in just went on sale, and there’s a store just around the corner from you, with that model in stock.
Iain Klugman, president and CEO of Communitech, an organization that promotes local technology companies and is organizing this venture, said it will cost $107 million to start the centre.
In addition to the provincial amount, which will be spread over the next five years, the federal government gave $5.4 million and the City of Kitchener, $500,000. The rest will come from private companies, either in cash or in-kind donations such as equipment and software.
What the centre will do, most of all, is bring together some of the early-stage companies with the larger, more established ones. There will be mentoring, brainstorming and sharing of technology and equipment.
“This will absolutely put Waterloo Region on the map as being a major digital media centre in North America,” said Klugman.
Even though the centre isn’t expected to start operating until next spring, there have already been inquiries from Scotland and across the United States and Canada, he said.
Milloy, asked how the province can find the money for this when it is facing a $24.7-billion deficit, said, “This is about the future, and this is about jobs.”
He said the new centre would boost the economy by assisting new ventures and producing jobs, not only in the high-technology area but also in spinoff effects.
ldamato@therecord.com
 
July 8, 2009
Video game giant drawn to area
Electronic Arts makes first foray into Ontario, opening office in Kitchener

Chuck Howitt
RECORD STAFF
KITCHENER
One of the world's largest developers and distributors of video games has quietly opened an office in Kitchener.
Electronic Arts Inc., based in Redwood City, Calif., has set up shop in an office at 130 Weber St. W. near Breithaupt Street.
Colin Macrae, director of communications with Electronic Arts, confirmed in an email that the company has opened a small operation in Kitchener with fewer than 10 employees.
The video game giant was drawn to this area for a number of reasons, he said, including "the strong talent base in the region."
The local team is doing "technical work to support EA's online initiatives," he said.
Founded in 1982, Electronic Arts posted revenues of $4.2 billion US in its 2009 fiscal year and had 31 games that sold more than one million copies.
Its most successful games are built on popular movies such as Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter, big-name sports figures such as John Madden, LeBron James and Tiger Woods and long-running hits such as Need for Speed and The Sims.
The company already employs 2,600 people in Canada, at development studios in Vancouver, Edmonton and Montreal, Macrae said. "We make some of the biggest games in the video game industry from our Canadian studios, such as FIFA Soccer, Mass Effect and Army of Two."
The Kitchener office is the company's first foray into Ontario.
Though Macrae was tight-lipped on what the local office will be doing apart from technical support, a glimpse can be gained from a job ad posted on the internet for a "userexperience designer" to work at the "EA Waterloo" office. "Industry-leading online play is a key strategic direction for the future of EA games," says the ad.
"In this position, you will have the opportunity to shape applications that will be implemented across a wide variety of games and social networking platforms, including the iPhone."
Although the office is small, the arrival of Electronic Arts in this area is good news for Waterloo Region, said Kevin Tuer of Communitech, the association representing technology companies in the region.
"I think it's a significant development," he said yesterday. "For a company of the calibre of Electronic Arts, of all the places they could go, they've decided Waterloo Region is the place to be."
Tuer said EA's arrival ties in nicely with Kitchener's recent designation as a digital media centre.
"We look forward to forging stronger ties with EA."
Tuer is also managing director of the new Canadian Digital Media Network, a federal-provincial initiative that will include digital media sites in Kitchener and Stratford. Earlier this week, the Ontario government announced major funding to bring Ubisoft, a global video game developer based in France, to Toronto where it will build a large video game studio employing up to 800 people.



June 25, 2009
KW Record
Light Rail Transit approved by Regional Council

Waterloo Region - Light Rail Transit (LRT) was approved by Regional Council Wednesday as the preferred technology for the Region of Waterloo's rapid transit system.

"In future years, people will look on this decision as doing more than anything else to manage growth and shape Waterloo Region," said Ken Seiling, Regional Chair. "Our ability to cope with growth and ensure our future quality of life will depend on providing a transportation system that encourages intensification, limits urban sprawl to protect our agricultural and environmentally sensitive lands, and avoids gridlock by providing alternatives to the dependence on cars as we grow."

The rapid transit system will provide a long-term, environmentally sustainable solution to help manage the Region's future growth and transportation needs and help build a vibrant and sustainable community.

The project will be implemented in a staged approach that will allow the Region to match transit technology with current and projected ridership and development potential in a cost effective manner. Stage 1 of the approved rapid transit route consists of light rail transit running from Conestoga Mall in Waterloo to Fairview Park Mall in Kitchener and adapted bus rapid transit from Fairview Park Mall to the Ainslie Street transit terminal in Cambridge. Stage 2 consists of continuing light rail transit from Fairview Park Mall to the Ainslie Street terminal, which will follow the completion of Stage 1 as closely as possible.

The approved rapid transit system will cost an estimated $790 million. Council also allocated $1 million annually for an initial 10-year period to implement transit supportive strategies to build transit ridership in Cambridge.

"The Region has undertaken an unprecedented program of public consultation on this issue over the last four years," said Mike Murray, Chief Administrative Officer. "We have heard from thousands of people and organizations, and their input has helped shape this project. Rapid Transit will help manage growth, move people, and make our community healthier and more sustainable for decades to come."

The Region will now proceed to negotiate funding agreements with provincial and federal governments. When funding is secured, final design will be undertaken in 2010. Construction of LRT is scheduled to launch in 2012, with the system opening late in 2014. Adapted bus rapid transit in Cambridge could start as early as 2011.
 
New Balsillie school will be 'functional, not fancy'TheRecord.com - Local - New Balsillie school will be 'functional, not fancy'

Greg Mercer
RECORD STAFF
WATERLOO Jan 2009
With a nod to the city's industrial past, and an eye to a green future, designers unveiled plans for an uptown school that aims to attract sharp minds from around the world.
To be built on land where whisky barrels used to roll, the Balsillie School of International Affairs will transform the empty Seagram's distillery site into a walkable, tree-lined campus with understated brick buildings, living roofs, a public auditorium and central courtyard.
"This is an institution that will go head to head with the rest of the world," declared Shirley Blumberg, principle architect for the project.
She's a partner in Toronto firm Kuwabara Payne McKenna Blumberg, the people who designed Kitchener City Hall and the Grand Valley Institute for Women.
Speaking at a packed open house at the Centre for International Governance Innovation last night, Blumberg said the school was designed to be "functional but not fancy," as per the wishes of its namesake and chief bankroller, Research In Motion co-CEO Jim Balsillie.
Balsillie is giving $33 million to the new school, while University of Waterloo and Wilfrid Laurier University will add $25 million over 10 years.
The site, bordered by Erb Street, Caroline Street and Father David Bauer Drive, connects to the Centre for International Governance Innovation.
The project will be built in phases, with ground preparation beginning by the end of this year. City council will be asked to approve the site's master plan on Feb. 23.
Although the economic downturn will affect the timing of later construction, the section housing the Balsillie school will be the first to be finished. It's designed to hold about 25 faculty, plus another 70 to 100 students.
Later plans call for another academic wing to hold other university programs, plus a proposed 12-storey building that would serve as housing for faculty and students and an underground parking garage.
The iconic Seagram's barrel pyramid may be moved from the site to make room for the new buildings, said project consultant Chris Pidgeon.
More than 100 residents crowded last night's meeting, but most questions revolved around how the school would affect traffic problems on surrounding streets.
To make Caroline Street more pedestrian-friendly, the city is looking at reducing the road from four lanes to two.
Most, though, seemed impressed with what designers were proposing.
"I've been involved with city planning for the past 40 years and this is the best plan I've seen in all that time," said Waterloo's John Shortreed.

National PostRIM actively hiring

By David George-Cosh, Financial Post  Published: Tuesday, December 09, 2008
Courtesy of Wireless GiantAt a time when many corporates are leaving staff go, RIM claims to be actively hiring.
While many companies are slashing employees at an unprecedented rate, Research In Motion Ltd. has more than 1,250 positions it needs filled.
The BlackBerry maker is bucking a trend that saw Canada shed over 71,000 jobs last month -- the largest monthly decline since 1982 -- by maintaining a highly vibrant and active hiring regime.
The jobs are spread across the world, from Australia to the United States, with the vast majority located in the company's Waterloo, Ont. headquarters within its R&D and product development departments.
"For the past three or four years, RIM has done the same thing companies like Nokia [Corp.] are doing now with a fraction of the workforce," said a company insider who declined to be named. "Right now, for every engineer who is promoted, RIM is hiring two or three to replace them. Probably in a few more years RIM could do some restructuring but not now."
Officials for RIM declined to comment, citing the company's quiet period before reporting its quarterly results on Dec. 18.
As of last March, when RIM issued its annual report, the company had 8,387 staffers spread around its various areas but company watchers generally agree that amount hovers around 10,000 employees today. By comparison, Nokia, the world's largest cellphone maker, touts about 123,000 employees and its chief financial officer recently told investors that a number of cost cutting measures will soon be announced.
"The company still views itself as a growth company, clearly the downturn provides an opportunity for them to gain more market share," said Genuity Capital Markets analyst Deepak Chopra.
RIM's aggressive hiring tactics appear to fall in line with its current growth strategy. It has released four new BlackBerry models since August -- the Bold, Storm, Pearl Flip and on Monday, the Curve 8900 -- and has sold about 5.8-million devices during the third-quarter of the year. The booming sales have positioned RIM as the second-largest smartphone maker in the world with 15.9% of the market, according to Gartner Inc.
"A good technology company will continue to innovate even in bad economic times to take advantage of the rebound," said Joe Campeau, who teaches information systems at the Richard Ivey School of Business. "If they don't, then everyone else will go past them and they'll burn cash to prevent that from happening."
Still, its full-steam ahead approach is a stark contrast to how investors view the company's stock. Since reporting its second-quarter earnings that missed consensus targets by one penny, RIM shares have fallen about 30% due to fears of incoming competitive pressures from Nokia and Apple Inc. as well as the economic impact a recession may have on the company's sales.
Some industry watchers believe that even RIM is not immune from a freeze in hiring practices. One analyst who declined to be named said layoffs may not be apparent, but may be done through attrition or a slowdown in the rate of new hires. Slight variances in that rate will be closely watched, Mr. Chopra said.,
"When a company's growing quite quickly, which RIM has for the past three to five years, there's always a risk managing that growth," Mr. Chopra said. "The big thing is that when you're growing that fast, management of all that headcount is key to succeeding."
 
 
 
 
Open Text brings 200 jobs homeTheRecord.com - CanadaWorld - Open Text brings 200 jobs home

Matt Walcoff
RECORD STAFF
Dec 2008
WATERLOO
Open Text Corp. is moving about 200 jobs to Waterloo as a result of global cost cutting.
The Waterloo-based software company plans to transfer jobs from offices in Chicago, Seattle, Germany and the United Kingdom over the next 12 to 18 months, chief executive officer John Shackleton said yesterday.
"We're replacing positions in costly areas around the world by bringing them here, where it's lower cost," he said in an interview after the company's annual meeting.
Open Text, which already employs about 450 people in Waterloo, plans to hire people here for positions in finance, product development, marketing and telephone sales.
It has 79 open positions in Waterloo advertised on its website and will hold a job fair Wednesday night next week at its headquarters in the University of Waterloo Research and Technology Park.
The company will have to find a second location in the area to provide room for all of the new hires. It may put up another building next to its head office, Shackleton said.
Company-wide, Open Text is cutting more jobs than it is adding.
Last month, it said it plans to eliminate about 360 of its nearly 3,600 employees around the world to eliminate redundancies created by the recent acquisition of software company Captaris Inc. of Bellevue, Wash., and to prepare for an economic slowdown.
Open Text, which specializes in enterprise content management software used by companies to organize and keep track of their documents and electronic content, remains committed to a business model with pre-tax profit margins of 20 to 25 per cent, despite the struggling economy.
While it is cutting expenses, Open Text still believes it can keep up revenue, Shackleton said.
Demand for products for compliance with legal and accounting standards and for security, two areas for which companies use Open Text software, remains strong, he said.
Open Text also is geographically diversified, with less than half of its sales coming from the United States.
Nearly half of the company's revenue comes from product maintenance, which is less susceptible to economic fluctuations than sales of new software and services, Shackleton said.

New Toyota plant offers hope, lessonsTheRecord.com - Opinions - New Toyota plant offers hope, lessons
RECORD STAFF
Dec 2008

The three Detroit-based auto companies -- their executives as well as their union leaders -- should travel Highway 401 to Woodstock to visit the new Toyota plant. The plant has symbolic importance that General Motors, Ford and Chrysler cannot permit themselves to ignore.
While the so-called Big Three worry about their market share, talk about closing plants and seek financial assistance from taxpayers in the United States and Canada, Toyota officially opened what appears to be a wonderful plant last Thursday.
This is success. The Woodstock plant will employ 1,200 workers, 1,000 of whom have come from Cambridge. Many of those workers were hired at Toyota's Cambridge plant on the understanding that they would work at the Woodstock plant when it opened.
The opening of the plant, therefore, created some vacancies that Toyota had to fill at the Cambridge plant. The new plant, therefore, was good not only for Woodstock but also for Waterloo Region.
The lesson provided by the opening of the Woodstock plant is simple and complex at the same time. The simple part is stating Toyota's goal, which is to create top quality, reasonably priced fuel efficient vehicles. The complex part is implementing that strategy.
To their credit, the senior executives of the Big Three appear to be making some mental adjustments to get ready to compete in today's market. The presidents of the companies were more modest and realistic when they appeared before congressional committees in Washington last week than when they appeared the first time. On their initial trip, they apparently thought they would impress the lawmakers by flying from Detroit on separate corporate jets. That certainly wasn't a way to show they were conscious of costs. For their followup visit, the executives drove.
The success of Toyota does not mean that taxpayers shouldn't help the auto industry. Canadians and Americans have an interest in maintaining an auto industry. But the taxpayers in both countries have a right to expect the auto companies to make radical changes in the way they operate.
Interestingly, Dennis DesRosiers, an auto industry analyst, has concluded that Toyota has created a job for every three the Big Three have lost in Ontario. The Big Three face a significant challenge producing vehicles that consumers want, but the new Toyota plant proves this is a challenge that can be met.

Waterloo's BarrelYards gets council's go-aheadTheRecord.com - CanadaWorld - Waterloo's BarrelYards gets council's go-ahead

Liz Monteiro
RECORD STAFF
WATERLOO
A $250-million uptown development with two condo towers, apartments and a luxury hotel, finally has the go-ahead from Waterloo.
An agreement covering the BarrelYards project got unanimous approval this week from city councillors.
Construction will start in the spring, Jaime Crich, president of the London-based development firm, told council.
The project includes 1,000 residential units on the former Canbar lands and a $20-million hotel, which has yet to be named.
"This will change the face of our community like never before,'' Coun. Mark Whaley said.
Mayor Brenda Halloran called the development a dream come true. "This is very exciting, very transformative,'' she said. "I wish we were putting the shovel in the ground tomorrow.''
Noting the project had been on the table for years, Coun. Ian McLean called the city's agreement with Auburn "a true collaboration."
It's not yet clear whether the BarrelYards project will affect a second hotel proposed for Waterloo, this one for a Westin Hotel on Willis Way between King and Caroline streets.
Whaley and MacLean both said they believe the developer, First Gulf Development Corp., continues to meet with city staff to talk about the Westin proposal.
"As far as I know, negotiations between the city team and First Gulf are still going on," Whaley said.
First Gulf Corp., which has asked the city to pay for most of a parking garage as part of the hotel proposal, could not be reached for comment. The parking proposal would cost the city $3.6 million, but McLean said he's sure First Gulf knows the city doesn't like the plan.
The city's total contribution to the BarrelYards project is estimated at $730,203.
Plans for the complex on about five hectares at Erb Street and Father David Bauer Drive include:
Two condominium towers 25 storeys high, two apartment towers 21 storeys high, one 18 storeys high and one 12 storeys high;
12 townhouses;
160,000 square feet of retail and commercial office space;
2,000 parking spaces -- 1,600 underground in a two-level parking garage and 400 surface spots.
The seven-storey hotel will have 150 rooms, including 38 apartment-style suites for extended stays. The hotel will also featurea pool, a restaurant and a conference facility for up to 200 people.
An announcement naming the hotel will be made next month, said Michael Siskind of Decade Group, a real estate development company in Toronto. Siskind said the hotel will meet the needs of sophisticated business travellers.
"People should not have to leave the uptown area,'' he said in an interview.
The hotel is expected to open by 2010.
The first part of the BarrelYards project will be erecting a 21-storey apartment building along Father David Bauer Drive this spring.
Ryan Mounsey, the city development planner, said it took nearly a year for the city and Auburn to iron out financial details, including a cost-sharing plan to bury hydro.
"This is a landmark project with significance for the City of Waterloo,'' he told councillors.
The total cost to bury the hydro is $790,738. The developer will pay for 50 per cent of the cost, while the city and Waterloo North Hydro will each pay 25 per cent. The city's share of the hydro work amounts to $197,684.
The city will also pay to widen Father David Bauer Drive, improve street lighting and plant trees. The money will come from development charges and the capital reserve fund, Mounsey said.
The developer went "above and beyond" what was necessary to make the project successful, he said.
Additional costs to be paid by the developer include a landscape median and a pedestrian promenade with trees, decorative concrete and street furniture.
Report says region will lead economic rebound

July 23, 2008
Matt Walcoff
RECORD STAFF
WATERLOO REGION
The stalled local economy will outperform the province and country over the next three years as the export market improves, according to a report from BMO Capital Markets.
"The economy should see the start of a turnaround next year, and then enter a period of strong growth by 2010," says the report released yesterday.
The strong Canadian dollar and weak U.S. demand have led to plant closures and job cuts among manufacturers in recent months.
But the loonie's ascent is probably near its end, and the U.S. economy will recover from its problems over the medium term, the report says.
Waterloo Region and Guelph will also benefit from rapid population growth and a diverse manufacturing base that includes companies that make high-tech and value-added products.
"Though we believe that the appreciation of the loonie has largely run its course, the adjustment to a new higher level will take time and more manufacturing jobs will be lost," the report's authors write.
"However, the area has demonstrated its ability to absorb these shocks in the past by moving up the value chain."
Positive developments for the area's economy include the growth of Research In Motion Ltd., new jobs at Denso Manufacturing and the Tim Hortons distribution centre in Guelph and the spillover effects of the new Toyota plant in Woodstock, the report noted.
The findings are in line with what Art Sinclair of the Greater Kitchener Waterloo Chamber of Commerce has been hearing from local business people.
"We've hopefully, based on this report, weathered the worst of the storm," said Sinclair, the chamber's director of economic development.
Waterloo Region's variety of industries make the area somewhat resilient to the kind of economic slowdown the area now faces, he said.
"Our ability to recover is probably greater than a lot of other communities," he said. "It's not a one-industry town."
The real gross domestic product of Waterloo Region and Guelph should increase 0.5 per cent this year and 2.7 per cent per year from 2009-12, BMO predicts.
The economy of Ontario as a whole will grow 0.2 per cent and 2.3 per cent in the respective periods.
That says as much about the rest of the province as it does about Waterloo Region, said Wilfrid Laurier University economics Prof. David Johnson. Some other areas of Ontario lack our industrial diversity or strong university presence or are hemmed in by provincial greenbelt policies.
"We're probably more like Oakville and less like Oshawa or Windsor," he said. "Things are going to be better in this region than they will be in some areas of the province."
After a slight decline in jobs last year, local employment should increase 1.2 per cent this year and 1.5 per cent per year from 2009-12, keeping unemployment below national levels.
The outlook for construction activity is also bright, with plans to redevelop Waterloo's Canbar property, Kitchener's Centre Block and the former Sportsworld property, among other projects, all proceeding

Blueprint for Canada's economic survival

GREG KEENAN and GORDON PITTS AND HEATHER SCOFFIELD
From Tuesday's Globe and Mail
 
Waterloo, Ont. — Shoemaker Street traverses an industrial park in Kitchener, where there's no one left making shoes. The once-vital textile industry is a shadow of its former self. The last tire making factory in the onetime rubber capital of Canada will soon shut its doors.
Welcome to Waterloo Region, smack in the eye of the Category 5 hurricane battering the country's manufacturing sector.
The soaring dollar, surging commodity prices, globalization and crises at the two largest U.S. auto makers have exterminated more than 117,000 manufacturing jobs in Canada in just 12 months. Eight plants have shut or are doomed in Kitchener-Waterloo-Cambridge. Massive layoffs have walloped other large industrial employers. About 3,400 jobs have evaporated in furniture making, textiles and auto parts — industries whose high-paying jobs created a solid, middle-class existence for generations.
This kick in the stomach would have staggered other, less resilient communities.
Kitchener-Waterloo, however, bounds ahead, leading the country in economic activity and demonstrating the get-on-with-it fortitude displayed by legions of entrepreneurs going back more than a century. The jobless rate actually fell last month to 5.2 per cent, among the lowest rates in the country.
Call it the Waterloo Way. It's a cultural and economic model that provides a beacon as Canada enters a new age of embattled manufacturing accompanied by massive investments in energy. It's the blueprint for how other communities can become economic warriors in the global battle for jobs and growth. It holds the key for Canada's economic survival and perhaps dominance.
"What happens in Kitchener-Waterloo in knowledge creation and dissemination and creation of high-value innovation is a metaphor for the 21st-century Canadian economy," says David Johnston, president of the University of Waterloo, an institution that is a fairly recent, but critical contributor to the region's success.
It's vital that other parts of the country pay attention to the successes in this community of about half a million people, adds Tom Jenkins, chairman and chief strategy officer of Open Text Corp., one of the leading high-tech companies in the region.
"If you're a community in Canada, the reason you're interested in this is the same reason you're interested in your children's education — it's because this is the future," Mr. Jenkins says.
One essential ingredient lies beneath Waterloo Region's historic ability to shrug off economic shocks and advance to new and leading-edge activities: Culture. The building blocks were laid by hard-working Mennonites who flooded into this part of Southwestern Ontario in the 1800s and were followed by successive waves of immigrants from Germany and elsewhere who embraced change.
Generations of entrepreneurs have adopted an attitude of: "If something new comes along, why aren't we involved in it?" notes Larry Smith, an adjunct associate professor at the University of Waterloo who is an expert on the subject.
The area has been at various times the furniture capital of Canada, the button capital, the shoe making capital and the rubber capital. It's an automotive capital with the expanding presence of Toyota Motor Manufacturing Canada Inc. on the northern edge of Cambridge. Food processing has been a mainstay for more than 100 years. There's diversification beyond manufacturing with a large financial services component through Manulife Financial Corp. and other insurance companies.
Luck helps, too. It's just an hour from Toronto and the key financial backers of new ventures. The U.S. border and the big market for products that have been made here for more than 150 years is not much farther.
The industrial history of the area — and central Canada — is written in yellow brick on a drive up King Street. The Bauer mattress factory is being demolished and the old Kaufman shoe plant is being transformed into the Kaufman lofts. Krug Furniture, Rumpel Felt and Huck Glove — stalwarts of the community for a century or more — still survive.
While they march on as foot soldiers of the old economy, Waterloo's remarkable ability to thrive during seismic economic change is being tested as never before.
It's passing the test, leaving behind shirts, boots and steel-belted radials and rolling into the new economy — world-leading BlackBerry wireless communications devices at Research In Motion Ltd., solar panels at ATS Automation Tooling Systems Inc., digital imaging systems at DALSA Corp.
In the northern part of Waterloo, within the shadow of the University of Waterloo, sits one of the keys to that transition. There, a 15-minute drive from where descendants of Mennonite settlers still cruise the countryside in horse and buggy, Open Text, RIM and others in the burgeoning high-tech sector form the base that is turning the area into the knowledge capital of Canada.
For the moment, RIM, ATS and DALSA are also manufacturing in Waterloo Region, adjusting to the soaring Canadian dollar and resisting the siren call of China, where hourly wages are measured in pennies, and India, where engineers are a dime a dozen.
To explain why those companies grew up there and why they're thriving, Mr. Jenkins points to "the alchemy" of Waterloo, a co-operation between business, governments and educational institutions. "There is an environment here where if you're an entrepreneur in this town, you're treated with great respect, and I mean from everybody," he says.
That's a lesson learned hard and painfully in other Canadian cities, where economic development has often been stymied by cultural, social or political divisions. Kitchener-Waterloo operates on a consensus that growth need not run roughshod over environmental or community goals and that successful business people are not pariahs, but can be heroes. The community is also action-oriented — it actually does things, rather than engage in endless debates about change.
The roots of Open Text and its growth to a $414-million (U.S.)-a-year company exemplify the tripartite co-operation between entrepreneurs, government and the University of Waterloo that serves as a model for other Canadian cities.
The software developer grew out of a 1984 contract professors Frank Tompa and Gaston Gonnet won to help Oxford University develop search engines and software to put the Oxford English Dictionary on-line. Ottawa chipped in with a $1.7-million (Canadian) grant, the university provided the equivalent of another $1-million or so and the first two employees were co-op students.
That's another area where Waterloo led the country — pioneering the co-op program where students spend four-month terms working at companies.
The university was founded by entrepreneurs who feared a looming shortage of technical graduates.
They created an institution that reflected a pragmatic and unique structure. While other centres of higher learning developed around arts programs, the University of Waterloo was born with an engineering, computer science and mathematics focus, and the co-op program, which has generated practical experience and jobs for thousands of graduates.
The co-op program is world renowned. Just ask Komex H20 Science Inc., an environmental firm in Los Angeles that hires University of Waterloo students for work terms. The company has purchased a condo to house the students and provides them with two essentials for beachside Southern California living — a bicycle and a surfboard.
Another crucial decision by the university founders helped incubate hundreds of spin-off companies — allowing researchers to retain the intellectual property rights for anything they developed.
"The key is to give people incentives to think about what might be put to use," says Doug Wright, the first dean of the engineering school and later president of the university in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
The relatively small size of the region also means business leaders are constantly rubbing shoulders so they can toss around ideas and learn from their peers.
"If you happen to be in an industry that's more challenged, then it's a way of really getting access to ideas that you may not otherwise have ..... whether it's on the tobogganing hill or whether it's the mayor's art night," says Jan Chaplin, president of Cambridge-based Canadian General-Tower Ltd., a member of the fifth generation of the Chaplin family to run the company, which began life in the 1860s as a wagon wheel maker. Today, it's a leading producer of swimming pool liners, a major Canadian-based presence in plastic auto parts and a testament to the agility of manufacturers in Kitchener-Waterloo-Cambridge.
Such transitions have not been seamless, but they occur because the community accepts that this is the way of business. People just get on with it, Mr. Wright says. In Waterloo Region, wagon wheel makers morph into auto parts producers, shoe makers become telecom operators and television manufacturers invest in digital projection systems for the 21st century. A wireless e-mail pioneer explores the frontiers of science itself.
Until now, the process of change and adaptation has been pushed along by the casual sharing and incubation of ideas and best practices. But that is about to become more formal with the opening of the Accelerator Centre, a stone's throw from Open Text in the University of Waterloo Research + Technology Park.
It's another example of the three-way co-operation. The federal and Ontario governments donated $13.4-million each to the research park, while Waterloo Region and the City of Waterloo each kicked in $6.7-million. The university supplied 400 acres of land.
The $4-million Accelerator Centre will be an incubator for high-tech startups from the university or even private research labs to help them make the jump to commercial success. It offers startups help to obtain financing, suites in the building and mentoring through a council of entrepreneurs that includes RIM founder Mike Lazaridis, who studied at the University of Waterloo.
The support from government goes well beyond money, Mr. Jenkins points out. "I have situations where I have 20 people who want to move to the city and the mayor has come and given them a talk about Waterloo. He's driven to Toronto to do that."
There are many threats to Waterloo maintaining its skill at riding the waves of economic change —complacency, failure by governments to maintain the infrastructure and the tendency of companies that flourish in Canada's small economy to get swallowed up by global players.
The end of Dofasco Inc., Ballard Power Systems Inc. and wine maker Vincor International Inc. as Canadian companies points to one issue for policy makers trying to determine where the economy is headed.
But focusing on making sure thriving companies stay in Waterloo or even remain Canadian is the wrong argument, in the eyes of Mr. Jenkins.
"What we need to do is not get focused on keeping that steel mill, or keeping that RIM, or keeping that Open Text, but creating the environment from which more will spawn," he says.
"The single best way to keep a RIM in Canada is to educate and reward and encourage Canadian-born entrepreneurs or immigrants that have chosen Canada as their home."
 

Lessons from Kitchener-Waterloo

GORDON PITTS
From Tuesday's Globe and Mail
 
1. Be entrepreneurial
German immigrants created a New Berlin of hard work and self-reliance out of the Southwestern Ontario countryside of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. "The early history of Berlin was all entrepreneurial," says Charles Greb, whose second-generation immigrant grandfather started a shoe-making business in 1910 — just before Berlin's name was changed to Kitchener during the First World War. Successive waves of immigrants built on this pro-business foundation, even as the old family companies closed down or evolved into something new. Mr. Greb, 76, was once operations boss at the family shoe company, whose products included Kodiak boots, Hush Puppies and Bauer skates. Today, shoe making is gone from Waterloo Region, and Mr. Greb, an investor and corporate director, has gone through several careers since the family company was sold in 1975. But he has few regrets about the loss of the family's manufacturing legacy. The entrepreneurial spirit lives on — in son Ross's services company, Greb Tele-Data, which sells telephone systems from an office on Shoemaker Street in Kitchener. "Things evolve," says Mr. Greb, who sees shoe making as an ideal industry for low-wage developing countries. As for Ross, 52, his only disappointment is that the family surrendered its skate business. He figures he is a salesman at heart, and could have made a nice career out of selling skates to Canada's hockey addicts.
 
 
2. Innovate
Brad Siim, 38, is poster boy for the Waterloo Way. He is one of five co-founders of Sandvine, a five-year-old tech startup that has just gone public on the London Stock Exchange, raising $37-million. This is actually Mr. Siim's second foray into high-tech moguldom since graduating from the University of Waterloo almost 15 years ago. The computer engineer was co-founder of PixStream, a Waterloo venture that he and an earlier configuration of partners sold to Cisco Systems for $369-million (U.S.) in 1999. (It was closed down two years later when Cisco retrenched.) PixStream spawned a spinoff of its own, called Kaparel. In each case, Mr. Siim surrounded himself with the classic recipe: Tech brains from the computer-mad University of Waterloo and business smarts from Wilfrid Laurier University, which sports a large commerce program. (The other key ingredient in each case was a timely investment by Sir Terence Mathews, Canada's telecom billionaire.) Unlike many Waterloo startups, Sandvine's network intelligence products are not the direct result of research undertaken at the University of Waterloo. But Mr. Siim is convinced that the university, along with WLU and Conestoga College, lie at the heart of why people build companies here. He is a serial entrepreneur who has been in on the start of three companies, and will be involved in more. The educational institutions are like anchor tenants in a shopping mall of creativity, he says — they are magnets for new ideas and new ventures.
 
3. Network business and educators
In the 1950s, there was Gerald Hagey. In the 2000s, there is Mike Lazaridis. You can draw a straight line between these two business leaders who pulled together public-private collaborations with the dream of putting Waterloo on the intellectual map. The late Mr. Hagey was a sales manager for Goodrich who, along with other local business leaders, conceived of a new-style Canadian university founded on engineering and math. He was the first president of the new University of Waterloo in the late 1950s and 1960s, and the key figure in breeding 250 to 300 spinoff companies that in their current variations, generate almost $1-billion in annual revenue. The university evolved into a computer science powerhouse, which attracted bright young people. One of those was Mr. Lazaridis, who dropped out of school in the 1980s just shy of graduation to run his own company, Research In Motion. But he had soaked up all the computing tools the university offered, including a precursor of today's e-mail. Years later, Mr. Lazaridis hit on a gadget called the BlackBerry that provides wireless e-mail — and it changed the world. Now, he is tackling something even more ambitious — a Waterloo big-idea complex that can predict "the science of the future." Working with governments, he has given $100-million to the new Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics and $50-million to the Institute for Quantum Computing. "We have passionately invested personal money into it," Mr. Lazaridis says of his science dream. As with Mr. Hagey's university, it could be the seed of Waterloo's next flowering of wealth creation.
 
4. Build on strength
By rights, Joseph Fung should be living in Markham. That's where he grew up, it's close to where his family lives, and there are plenty of high-tech companies in the Toronto suburb to employ a 25-year-old computer engineer. Instead, Mr. Fung owns and runs Lewis Media, a five-year-old Kitchener company that develops software for powering websites. One reason for choosing Kitchener is that he co-founded the company while studying at the University of Waterloo — and he still hasn't found time to graduate. But the main factor is the support and networking for startups like his — not only through the university but through organizations such as Communitech, the 350-company non-profit group that knits the tech community together, and Canada's Technology Triangle, the local economic development bureau. That support system keeps drawing people back. Randall Howard recently moved his firm, Software Innovations Inc., and its 30-plus jobs, to Kitchener from downtown Toronto. In the 1980s, he had founded MKS Inc., a Waterloo high-tech hopeful that hit a bump in the downturn of 2000. MKS is back on track, but Mr. Howard has moved on — to another company, if not another region. Although his new company is now based in Kitchener, he tells international contacts that its home is a "suburb" of Waterloo — the Waterloo brand is that strong.
 
5. Diversify
Old Order Mennonites, who have traditionally shunned electricity, cars and insurance, would not seem the kind of folks who would foster financial services innovation. But the Mennonites are also believers in community co-operation, which retired life insurance executive John Panabaker believes has driven the growth of a financial cluster that employs about 12,000 people in the region. The Mennonites' sharing culture helped breed Waterloo's mutual insurance companies in the 19th and early 20th century. It inspired the founding of policyholder-owned Mutual Life in 1869, which grew into a national force and employed Mr. Panabaker for almost 40 years, including tenures as president and chairman. In the 1990s, it demutualized, changed its name to Clarica and was absorbed by Toronto-based Sun Life Financial in 2002. But the legacy lives on in a body of insurance expertise and a talent pool that continues to be tapped by Sun Life and other companies from outside the region. Manulife Financial has its Canadian headquarters with almost 4,000 employees here; Equitable Life is based in the region, as is Lutheran Life (known as FaithLife). The general insurer, Economical Insurance, now 135 years old, is locally based. The financial sector provides a steady balance to cyclical manufacturing. "Over the years, financial services have provided stable employment when breweries, distilleries and furniture companies shut down," Mr. Panabaker says.
 
6. Attract smart people
David Chilton is a financial guru, author of the phenomenally successful Wealthy Barber book and head of a publishing venture. But he has never dreamed of leaving Kitchener-Waterloo, which has been home for all his 44 years. "People who live here really like it," he says. "They don't move." Waterloo Region is home to a cluster of seminar leaders, consultants and speakers who appreciate the combination of small-city feel with proximity to major population centres. Mr. Chilton runs his international business within a stone's throw of farmers' markets and rural life around St. Jacobs and Elmira. Others point to the region's symphony orchestra and growing theatre scene. The Perimeter Institute for Applied Physics has an outreach program with speakers and concerts. But there are gaps — no five-star hotel, for example, and a small airport, although Toronto's Pearson International Airport is less than an hour away. Wilfrid Laurier University business dean Scott Carson says the region has developed almost overnight "from a collection of small Ontario towns to a collection of large Ontario towns." The next step is a social and arts infrastructure that will retain senior executives and head offices, even after the companies have outgrown their rustic roots.
 
7. Built an outsider mentality
Historian John English says the economic prosperity of Kitchener-Waterloo was built by people operating outside the mainstream of Canadian business and society. Prof. English, who heads Waterloo's Centre for International Governance Innovation, says the early business families — shoe makers, furniture makers and food producers — were German-Canadians and often evangelical Christians whose education and beliefs took them outside Ontario establishment thinking, often moulded at the University of Toronto. In the same way, University of Waterloo was founded by unconventional academics who saw engineering, not arts, as the core discipline. That maverick thinking has carried over into the era of RIM, ATS, DALSA, and Open Text. The region is far enough away from Toronto that it sees itself not as an outpost but an economic hub of its own. But Kitchener-Waterloo knows it is tied, for better or worse, to the global economy — as home to manufacturers such as Toyota, ATS, Com Dev and the auto parts companies, linked by highways to large U.S. cities, and connected through its major university and tech wizards to Silicon Valley and the U.S. Pacific Northwest.
 
8. Get on with it.
When companies are under pressure, there is a Waterloo tradition of just adapting and surviving. The business culture is action-oriented, which means not just talking about change — and not waiting for massive handouts. One example is Canadian General-Tower, a family-owned company in Cambridge that has evolved over the past century from making wagon wheels to the manufacture of plastic auto parts and pool liners. The secret, CGT president Jan Chaplin says, is to attract, develop and hold on to good people who can take a company forward, in whatever form it takes.
 
9.: Generate venture capital
Proximity to Toronto has historically given Waterloo good access to capital sources, but it is far enough away to avoid being unduly influenced by Bay Street's short-term thinking. In recent years, the region has tried to develop its own financing pool — it has developed a locally based $100-million venture capital fund called Tech Capital Partners. Now, it is also beginning to develop its own corps of serial entrepreneurs — company builders who reinvest their wins as they move from startup to startup.
 

The changing economy

Globe and Mail Update
Oil patch riches are softening the blow of a devastated manufacturing sector, but the good times can't last. Experts say Canada has to diversify now to compete globally, or end up paying later.
The Manufacturing Changeseries in this week's Report on Business showed how Kitchener-Waterloo has navigated this transformation.
The Waterloo Way, as it is known, is a cultural and economic model that provides a beacon as Canada enters a new age of an embattled manufacturing sector accompanied by massive investments in energy. It's the blueprint for how other communities can become economic warriors in the global battle for jobs and growth. It holds the key for Canada's economic survival and perhaps dominance.
David Johnston, president of the University of Waterloo, an institution that is a fairly recent, but critical contributor to the region's success, answered your questions today on the roles that academia, government and business all play in the formation of a smarter economy.
Editor's Note: globeandmail.com editors will read and allow or reject each question/comment. Comments/questions may be edited for length or clarity. HTML is not allowed. We will not publish questions/comments that include personal attacks on participants in these discussions, that make false or unsubstantiated allegations, that purport to quote people or reports where the purported quote or fact cannot be easily verified, or questions/comments that include vulgar language or libellous statements. Preference will be given to readers who submit questions/comments using their full name and home town, rather than a pseudonym.
Sasha Nagy, Business Features Editor, globeandmail.com writes:
President Johnston,
Thanks very much for joining us today to discuss the Waterloo regions fundamental economic transformation. Professor Johnston, the point that became very clear to me as I read the Manufacturing Changeseries was how important it is for academia, government and business to work together. From your perspective as president of a major university, how does this synergy occur? Should universities craft their research and programs to court local business elites? Or, do the business opportunities develop from pure research, as it appears to have happened in your area with Research in Motion?
Professor Johnston:
Synergy occurs from bringing together imaginative people from these three areas to find common purpose. With a high degree of imagination and purpose, they can focus on how to accomplish that task rather than on the obstacles that stand in the way.
Universities should develop their research and teaching programs with careful attention to focus, and drawing from the strengths of their immediate environment. They must also identify ways in which they can contribute to the strengths of that local environment. The same applies with respect to the national environment.
The answer is both/and. Pure research is essential, probably equally well described as curiosity driven research, but the path to business opportunities is more idiosyncratic. It is more unpredictable. The example to follow in our area will relate to what happens to the pure research from the Institute of Theoretical Physics and the experimental research of IQC. They will, for example, lead to new opportunites in quantum computing cryptography, which will lead to the next generation of companies like Research In Motion.
Kirk Miller from Canada writes:Your work on 'Smart cities' back in your McGill days seems to have foreshadowed your thinking today. Can you reflect on the vision then and comment to what extent Waterloo meets that vision today? Does the vision today have a capacity to be exported to other cities?
Professor Johnston writes:
Kirk Miller. The vision is the information communications technology revolution and how to best take advantage of that to build a smart city. The City of Waterloo has recently been named by the Intelligent Communities Forum as one of the top seven intelligent communites in the world. We will learn in June in New York whether it is the top of the top. That vision can be exported to any other city in the world ­ or rural community for that matter ­and it must, if we are to avoid a digital divide.
Bear in mind that it took eight decades from Gutenberg's printing press in roughly 1450 ­ and he, a jeweller, went brankrupt twice ­ to 1523, when Martin Luther published a vernacular translation of the Bible, and Machiavelli wrote The Prince, the first secular best seller. That began the revolution of the printed word, popular reading, and the industrial revolution in Western Europe. Five-hundred years later, the Internet has taken about two decades to move from technological concept to widespread use. Those societies that understand and can accelate this uptake of a new communication revolution will be the more prosperous and civic.
 
R Burke from Waterloo Canada writes:When I first read about the demise of manufacturing, most arguments are based around the rising dollar. It seems hard to fathom how an institution like the University can shift its focus in such a way to have an immediate impact on the short term economy (metric being the dollar). Then thinking in terms of trade, Canada is able to achieve gains by providing more unique and knowledge-based products and services for trade. What should the focus/role of the government and educational institutions be to steer the marketplace in developping in such areas. I know in the government has promoted an entrepreneurial focus, but I am not so sure this has been paralleled at the University level, or maybe this is not the desired approach?
 
Professor Johnston:
R. Burke. First, a rising dollar is a good thing. It means Canadians can command more of other people's goods and servies with their own currency, although largely driven by a commodities boom. Second, the challenge is to add higher value to manufacturing and other goods and services trade to keep one's dollar rising. A university's focus should be on producing very talented people and the ideas to ensure the continuation of the virtuous cycle of adding high value. The focused role of government should be to invest in talent and innovation, and the educational institutions to grow that talent, and spawn that innovation to best interact with the marketplace.
As to entrepreneural focus, the major contribution of the University of Waterloo has been co-op education -- theory and practice going hand in hand -- and the recognition that the best vehicle for technology transfer is a good pair of shoes, especially if you wear them out traversing back and forth between industry and university.
 
Chris Smith from Toronto Canada asks: As the economy evolves, do you think we concentrate too much on efficiency, ultimately to our own detriment? Do we end up locking ourselves in with low costs, losing out on the value of diversity in the economy? But - is it even possible to sell any business on the idea that they should forego cost savings from efficiency, because of the future possibilities they will cut off? (I think this question makes sense for you, because Waterloo seems well known for advances that have little or nothing to do with efficiency but a lot to do with fundamental change.)
 
Professor Johnston:
C. Smith. Efficiency and productivity for the short term are important. But of even greater importance are investing in talented people who can envision a business or an economy a few years out, and ensuring the process of constructive reinvention is constantly at work.
 
Cathryn Motherwell of the Globe and Mail asks:What advice do you offer to communities that want to begin building a plan along the Waterloo model? And further, what will be the next big transformation that the K-W region undergoes?
 
Professor Johnston:
My advice would be, again, to return to the barnbuilding metaphor -- to invest in those engines of talent and innovation that are the learning institutions in the community.
As to the transformation in Kitchener Waterloo, I expect it will be the quantum revolution. We'll be looking to see that the investment in quantum computing makes the KW region a world centre in application of this new science.
 
rob van adrichem from Prince George, B.C. writes:I have been fascinated by your series on the 'new' economy and my question relates specifically to the Canadian North, including the northern parts of the provinces. These regions have powered the Canadian economy for a long time, providing much of the oil and gas, lumber, hydroelectric power, and minerals that have been so important to Canada's positive trade balance. It was interesting to note in your series that Sudbury was identified as a community in trouble. They aren't the only northern community to face the challenges of the knowledge economy. Thankfully, they have a university - as does Prince George - but the knowledge infrastructure is primarily located in southern metropolitan centres.
Northern communities have already been having a tough time, as the traditional resource industries shed jobs at the same time that they increase productivity (detailed in that interesting graph on page 8 of the paper yesterday). In 'Reflections of a Siamese Twin,' John Ralston Saul points out the real issue confronting Canada today. It is rural-urban, or north-south. 'Suddenly,' he writes on page 465, 'all the southern cities were turned into new colonial pwers. And they went on to treat the north exactly the way empies treat colonies. They bled it without great consideration for the north's own desires, interests, and needs.' At least the North had (and still has) enormous resource wealth.
What will be the future for the North in a knowledge economy? What are the policy instruments that government can use today to provide the North with the capacity for developing the human capital that will allow it to continue to contributing to the Canadian economy at a level that is disproprtionate to its population?
 
Professor Johnston writes:
The best single policy initiative I can suggest is the Connected Communites Initiatve to ensure that every community in Canada, including the very small, is connected to powerful broadband. This was the major recommendation of the National Broadband Taskforce I chaired several years ago for the government of Canada.
 
Sasha Nagy writes:Professor Johnston, thanks again for your time and your insights. If any one wishes to read the complete series, go to the Manufacturing Change web site at www.globeandmail.com/manufacturingchange
 
A new neighbourhood for Waterloo
Development of core's vacant land includes 750 luxury units, retail
PHILIP JALSEVAC
WATERLOO (Apr 6, 2006)
Ambitious plans were unveiled yesterday for a $140-million development in Waterloo's core, including a four-star hotel and a cluster of condominiums and apartments.
Developer Jamie Crich, president of Auburn Developments Inc., said he believes the mostly residential project will become "one of the crown jewels in our portfolio."
Crich was speaking at a news conference and presentation to about 50 local officials and guests at the former Seagram museum.
Auburn says its proposed development will be a new "neighbourhood" of about 2,000 residents.
The proposal, on the vacant site of the former Canbar lands, includes 750 "luxury" units in seven separate buildings on the 12.7-acre site at Erb Street and Father David Bauer Drive.
The development will be called The BarrelYards, to recognize the site's history as the Mueller Cooperage, which began producing barrels in 1872 and later became Canada Barrel and Kegs, owned by the Seagram family.
The development consists of two 17-storey condominium buildings at the north end of the site near Waterloo Park and five apartment buildings, ranging from seven to 15 storeys, scattered throughout the site.
There would also be some two- to three-storey townhouses near the end of Avondale Avenue.
On the commercial side, the plan envisions a six-storey office building at the corner of Erb Street and Father David Bauer Drive, with space on the main floor for small shops and services such as a restaurant or pharmacy.
The retail component would take up about 15,000 square feet of the 75,000-square-foot building.
There would also be retail space on the main floor of 10 three-storey units along Father David Bauer Drive, called "live/work" units, with residential space on the two upper floors.
The site will provide roughly 1,000 surface parking spots.
There will also be a one-acre park in the centre of the development to serve as a neighbourhood gathering space.
As for the hotel, it would provide 120 to 150 "all suite" units and conference facilities in a seven-storey building.
The building would front on Erb Street on the east side of an extension of Menno Street.
In an interview, Crich said there's a "desperate need for a first-class facility" in the heart of the city and the suites would be ideal for long-term stays of a week or so by visitors.
"It's a little more comfortable to have kitchen facilities and more room."
The all-service hotel is also planned to include an upscale restaurant.
Auburn, a 50-year-old family business based in London, Ont., has a long track record in mostly residential development. with the hopes of attracting a developer. Auburn, which bought the property near the end of 2004, will play that role and construct the buildings itself.
Asked about the decision to spend between $130 million to $140 million on the project, he said: "We know it is a very wise and safe investment."
Waterloo has a "great employment base" to sustain such a project, he said.
"You've got a great, budding uptown environment . . . it's one of the nicer ones in Ontario."
Auburn is submitting an application to the city this week for an official plan and zoning bylaw amendment.
If approved, the company hopes to begin construction by September 2007, with the development phased in over about five years.
Scott Amos, acting director of planning, said the zoning already permits the proposed residential and commercial uses, including the hotel.
But one of the key amendments would require a change to the height restrictions, which are now capped at four to seven storeys.
However, Amos said, what is proposed is in keeping with the city's new height and density policy and the push by the province and city for more urban intensification.
Still, council would have to make a political decision based partly on public consultation and hearings, Amos said.
Area residents can preview plans for the development at an open house to be scheduled for later this month.
There will be an opportunity to speak to council at an informal public meeting, which is tentatively set for mid-May.
There is no date yet for a formal public meeting at which council makes its decision on the zoning application.
But Chris Pidgeon, a local planner retained by Auburn, said he's hoping that will occur by early 2007.
pjalsevac@therecord.com
 
Rapid transit clears hurdle
Region will now examine merits of various transportation systems
JEFF OUTHIT
WATERLOO REGION (May 24, 2006)
Plans to build rapid transit in Waterloo Region have cleared another planning hurdle.
Part one of a $2 million transit study has concluded that, to help manage growth, rapid transit is better than just building more roads, improving regular transit or continuing with limited road and transit upgrades.
"It's confirmed what people generally knew all along," regional Chair Ken Seiling said.
This conclusion clears the way for Waterloo regional council to proceed with parts two and three of the transit assessment, following a public review period ending June 19.
The rest of the study will consider the best type of rapid transit, along with routes, costs and timing.
The provincial and federal governments have said they may help build rapid transit here if the study concludes favourably in 2007.
Regional council has been advocating electric rail transit since 2002. It's pitched as the best way to lure more jobs and homes to urban neighbourhoods as the region grows to 729,000 residents by 2031.
The first phase of electric rail would cost an estimated $306 million, between Kitchener and Waterloo.
However, the ongoing transit study has yet to recommend electric rail as the best option.
Rather, it describes rapid transit as any system operating for its entire length on a dedicated lane that is above, on or below the ground.
Transit technologies still under review include electric rail, rapid buses, subways and monorails.
Part one of the transit study measured various road and transit upgrades against 15 criteria, including potential impacts on the environment, planning, the economy and transportation.
Public meetings were held to gauge opinion.
Consultants conclude that rapid transit wins 13 of 15 categories.
Its shortcomings are that it is less flexible than regular transit and costs more to build than limited road and transit upgrades.
On the upside, it uses less land, pollutes less, does more to build urban places and revive downtowns, protects more farmland and is more compatible with planning goals.

 

The 'quiet boom': High-tech turnaround drives Ottawa, Waterloo growth

Mark Evans, Financial Post

Published: Tuesday, January 31, 2006
WATERLOO, Ont. - In the middle of a field in this southern Ontario city where only a few years ago farmers grew corn, the seeds of a high-tech revival are taking root. Three new glass-walled office buildings have sprouted up that, if industry conditions stay buoyant, will be part of a new 120-acre research and technology industrial park.
It's a sign that after several years of sluggish sales and painful cost-cutting, Canada's high-tech industry is beginning to bounce back. It's happening not just here, but also in Ottawa, once the country's high-tech hub, where the local economy has added more than 12,000 jobs in the past two years.
"We're one of the best places to invest," said Tim Jackson, a partner with Tech Capital Partners, which has raised $60-million to invest in local start-ups. "And one of the best places to be an entrepreneur to start a company because the community has matured and you can start a company in Waterloo, take it all the way to be a publicly traded company on any exchange in the world, and do it with the infrastructure that's here."
Communitech, a Waterloo-based trade association, estimates local high-tech companies will hire 1,500 people this year --driven by Research in Motion Ltd. as well as a growing number of start-ups such as Sandvine Inc. and Slipstream Technologies Inc.
In Ottawa, the number of high-tech companies has climbed to 1,800 from 1,000 over the past four years, while the industry's recovery has seen Silicon Valley, which was battered when the dot-com bubble burst, add 2,000 employees last year to its high-tech workforce -- the first increase in four years.
The revival has much to do with the strength of the overall North American economy, which has improved corporate profits. Many firms now are spending on technological software, hardware and services to increase productivity.
Vito Mabrucco, managing director with Toronto-based IDC Canada, expects the $35-billion domestic high-tech industry to grow by about 5% over the next few years. "This is a quiet boom with positive growth, but not something the industry can't keep up with," he said.
The growth of Waterloo's high-tech economy is not so much a rebound as a resurgence. Unlike many high-tech communities, Waterloo was not hurt as badly when the dot-com boom ended. That was thanks to Research in Motion Ltd., which continued to aggressively grow as its Blackberry business expanded, and to the University of Waterloo, which is rapidly gaining a reputation as one of the world's leading computer-programming schools -- a status made clear by Microsoft Corp. co-founder Bill Gates' recent visit. Moreover, the local economy is diversified, with Toyota and B.F. Goodrich along with Manulife Financial and Sun Life Assurance Co. of Canada all having a presence in the city.
In fact, Waterloo's high-tech economy might have fared even better if not for the city's infrastructure, which strained under the pressure of the last growth spurt as companies sought office space, management talent, accounting firms and lawyers.
 
"It has taken the community five years to deal with it," said Tom Jenkins, chairman with Open Text Corp., which employs about 400 people at its corporate headquarters in Waterloo. "There has been a consolidation time in Waterloo and the infrastructure had to catch up. Today, the infrastructure is all over the city."
The new 120-acre Research and Technology Park in Waterloo reflects the city's confidence in the high-tech industry's growth. So far, Sybase Inc. and Open Text have each occupied a building, while the third building -- called the Accelerator Centre -- will be home to as many as 20 start-ups who will have access to services such as management consulting, professional and mentoring services, networking events and introductions to investors.
A new sales tool for Waterloo is Google Inc.'s decision to establish a foothold in the city with the recent purchase of Reqwireless Inc., a small firm focused on wireless e-mail and Web browser software. The deal has been seized by Waterloo as another indication the outside world has discovered the city's appeal.
David Caputo, president and chief executive with Sandvine, which offers security and traffic management service to Internet service providers, said it is easier to get people to work in Waterloo than it was five years ago because the city has grown and benefited from the opening of the world-class Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics and The Centre for International Governance Innovation, started by RIM co-CEOs Mike Laziridis and Jim Balsillie, respectively.
"We are becoming a little more cosmopolitan," Mr. Caputo said. "There are more restaurants than there used to be and a lot more to do with family than there used to be."
Larry Smith, an adjunct professor of economics at the University of Waterloo and president and CEO of consulting firm Essential Economics Corp., stresses the "tech boom" is not back.
"This is not 1999 or anything like it," he said. "We don't want that kind of wild gyration all over the countryside. The tech sector offers reasonable opportunities for our students and graduates but it would not be fair to say they all have multiple choices or they get their first choice. I would say the labour market conditions are entirely reasonable."
If Waterloo's comeback is a renaissance, what's happening in Ottawa can be called a rebound. During the late-1990s boom, Silicon Valley North was jumping as Nortel Networks Corp., Alcatel SA and JDS Uniphase Inc. hired thousands of people to keep up with demand. At the peak, Nortel had 17,000 employees and JDS had 15,000. When the boom went bust, Ottawa lost 15,000 jobs.
While the market has become healthier and total employment has nearly returned to the peak of 79,000, it is quite different than five years ago. Rather than being dominated by a handful of large multi-nationals such as Nortel, the high-tech community is predominantly small- and medium-sized companies. More than 50% of the 1,800 companies have fewer than 10 employees.
 
 
"This is not the same old boom," said Jeffrey Dale, president and chief executive with the Ottawa Centre for Research and Innovation. "This boom is being caused by small, entrepreneurial companies that have found their niche and are generating revenue."
Ottawa also now has an abundance of office space for high-tech companies following a building boom several years ago in suburban Kanata, Ont., Mr. Dale said vacancy rates are 10% to 15%, but he would not be surprised to hear within the next 12 months of plans for the development of a new building.
Despite the growing enthusiasm within the high-tech industry, Mr. Dale said there are troubling signs Canada may not have the talent pool it needs to stay competitive. In the past couple of years, he said, university enrollment in computer science and computer engineering has declined by more than 10%.
Mr. Dale said the industry simply fell out of favour after the dot-com bubble burst in 2001 and the news was dominated by companies such as Nortel laying off thousands of employees -- not the kind of news to excite young people about a career in technology.
At the same time, he said, the federal government shifted its focus away from software and telecom to sexier areas such as bio-technology and nano-technology. It should not have come as much of a surprise, therefore, that technology and innovation was not a high-profile election issue.
"It disappointed me but it didn't surprised me," Mr. Dale said. "The technology sector is about the same size as the auto sector. There are well over 10,000 technology companies across Canada, and they employ well over 500,000 people, but they are below the radar screen because they are small and medium companies. Politically, technology has never been flavour of the month."




Powered by YOA.ca