Ontario invests $1.2 million in Communitech Hub expansion to foster growth in Waterloo
Article originally published on news.communitech.ca
A freshly expanded Communitech Hub officially opened with a bang this week (July 21st), as the Ontario Government announced a $1.2 million investment to support Waterloo Region-based startups and high-growth companies through the enlarged facility.
The expansion is a partnership between Communitech, Google Canada, the University of Waterloo, the City of Kitchener and the province, and will result in more support for innovative entrepreneurs in the region.
Reza Moridi, Minister of Research, Innovation and Science, was joined by two cabinet colleagues – Brad Duguid, Minister of Economic Development and Growth; and Deb Matthews, Minister of Advanced Education and Skills Development and Minister Responsible for Digital Government – in celebrating the launch of the three-level, 80,000-square-foot space, up from the 55,000 square feet the Hub previously occupied on the ground floor of Kitchener’s former Lang Tannery.
“This new space is going to provide much more capacity and much more opportunity for startup companies to grow and to become multimillion-dollar companies, billion-dollar companies,” Moridi told an enthusiastic crowd gathered on the Hub’s brightly lit new second floor during.
Google made the extra space available when its Canadian engineering headquarters moved to a much larger facility in the nearby Breithaupt Block earlier this year.
Moridi lauded the partnership, saying, “This spirit of collaboration speaks to the fact that if you’re going to succeed in the very competitive, fierce economy worldwide, we need to work together to collaborate between industry, government, academia and the various institutions. That is the Canadian way and the Ontario way of doing business in the 21st century.”
The boost in capacity will enable Communitech to do more to help technology companies, through expanded services for startups, more work space for startups and mid-sized companies, innovation zones where companies of all sizes can collaborate, training programs for mid-sized companies, and more corporate innovation programming to help global brands become more nimble and boost the speed of getting new products to market.
“Overall, it provides the foundation to meet our goal of helping to build 10 new $100-million companies in Waterloo Region over the next 10 years,” said Iain Klugman, Communitech’s CEO.
The expansion will also serve efforts to build the Toronto-Waterloo region into a globally-ranked innovation corridor that can help further drive the provincial and national economies.
That potential is what drew Google to the region 11 years ago, when it set up a small outpost that has since ballooned into a major presence.
Kory Jeffrey, a former Communitech team member who now heads developer relations for Google Canada, suggested that’s no accident.
“When Google first contemplated extending outside of California, we sent people all over the world, and the people who came back from Waterloo said that we absolutely had to be here,” Jeffrey said. “They couldn’t quite explain why; they just said that something was going on in Waterloo, and that we had to become part of it. And so we did. We built one of the largest engineering teams outside of the U.S. for Google, here in K-W.”
Google has not only grown its own operations substantially during that time, but has become a key partner in building the Waterloo Region tech ecosystem through various initiatives, such as the Google for Entrepreneurs program for startups, and student outreach programs to build fundamental tech skills.
“We continue to collaborate with organizations like Communitech and the University of Waterloo, which we believe are world-class in their ability to build capacity and help this region compete on a global stage,” Jeffrey said.
Earlier this year, Kitchener city council pledged $300,000 towards the expansion, following on from its initial $500,000 investment in 2010 that helped launch the Hub and catalyze the reinvigoration of the city’s downtown.
The Communitech Hub now occupies 80,000 square feet in the Lang Tannery building. The expansion means Communitech will be able to offer additional services, including:
- An expanded Start-up Services program, which currently provides mentorship, training and connections to more than 500 start-ups per year
- More work space for start-ups and small-to-mid-sized businesses innovation zones to bring start-ups together with companies of all sizes to collaborate on projects
- More training programs aimed at mid-sized businesses
- Expanded corporate innovation programming designed to help global brands increase the speed of new products to market