Why bring your business to Ottawa?

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Economic overview

As the capital of Canada, the City of Ottawa is home to more than one million people and is the fourth largest municipality in the country. With a vibrant technology sector, high median household income and affordable living costs - Ottawa is a great place to live, work and play. The following are some quick facts and an economic overview of Ottawa.

Population

The Planning, Infrastructure, and Economic Development Department tracks population change on a bi-annual basis. These City-derived estimates are based on the 2001 postcensal estimate of population and net new units from issued building permits, changes in rental vacancy and the decline on the persons per unit in existing households.

The City of Ottawa had a mid-year 2019 population of 1,001,077, a 1.6 per cent increase from mid-year 2018. 

Land area

As reported in the 2016 Census, Ottawa has land area of 2,790 km2. This means that Ottawa is larger than the cities of Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Toronto, and Montréal combined.

Labour force

As reported by Statistics Canada’s Labour Force Survey, between 2014 and 2018, the Ottawa CMA’s labour force grew by 2.2 per cent. The number of employed residents also increased 4.54 per cent to reach 557,600. Ottawa CMA’s unemployment rate decreased to 4.6 per cent in 2018, remaining lower than the provincial (5.6 per cent) and national (5.8 per cent) rates.

In 2017, the top five employment sectors in Ottawa CMA were:

  • Health and Education (21 per cent)
  • Public Administration (21 per cent)
  • Professional, Scientific and Technical Services (11 per cent)
  • Retail Trade (10 per cent)
  • Accomodation and Food services (5 per cent)

Talent

The region is recognized for having the highest number of residents with post-secondary education in Canada. The percentage of Ottawa’s population aged 15 years and over with a Postsecondary certificate, diploma or degree is 63.7 per cent. Over 89,000 have Master's degrees and earned doctorates (Ph.Ds).

Ottawa has a highly sought after talent pool. The city boasts the second highest concentration of scientists and engineers in North America and the highest concentration of tech talent in the nation.

The Ottawa Economy

As reported by the Conference Board of Canada, real GDP at basic prices for the Ottawa-Gatineau CMA was at 77,689 (2012 $ millions) in 2018, which is up 2.4 percent from 2017.

As reported in the 2016 Census, the median total family income in 2015 for the City of Ottawa was $109,000. Even though Ottawa has the second-highest family income among major Canadian cities, the city’s average housing costs are affordable. As reported by the Ottawa Real Estate Board, the average housing costs in 2015 in the City of Ottawa was $391,940.

Ottawa's Economic Advantages

Ottawa is internationally renowned as a great place to live and to do business; the many awards received are a testament to that. There are many economic advantages to establishing your company in Ottawa; notably, great access to talent, low cost of doing business, superb quality of life, and an accessible global network.

Access to talent

Having access to talent is a key competitive advantage in a global economy. Talent is at the heart of Ottawa's economic development. The region is recognized for having the highest number of residents with post-secondary education in Canada. 

Ottawa has a highly sought after talent pool. The city boasts the second highest concentration of scientists and engineers in North America and the highest concentration of tech talent in the nation, a source of innovation and creativity. In addition, Ottawa’s high concentration of Research and Development centres is a catalyst for talent attraction and retention.

Ottawa’s four post-secondary institutions ensure a steady talent pipeline. They educate as many as 130,000 students with 20 per cent of that student population specializing in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). The area is also home to many Private Career Colleges, which offer unique and specialized skills training for our dynamic labour market.

Cost of doing business

Total business tax costs in Canada are the lowest in the G7, ranking #2 among the top countries with the lowest business costs.

Furthermore, Ottawa has been rated the most business-friendly environment and third best city for Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) out of 77, mid-sized cities, in the Western Hemisphere – it’s no surprise why Ottawa is home to more technology companies than Vancouver, Montreal, Calgary and almost five times more than Waterloo.

Quality of life

Ottawa is a world-class capital, globally recognized as a diverse metropolitan hub, with a friendly atmosphere and magnificent natural beauty. The city is ranked as one of Mercer’s top 20 cities for global quality of living.

Affordable housing, low taxes, low crime, good transit infrastructure, strong arts and sports community, and access to healthcare have catapulted Ottawa to first place in MoneySense Magazine’s Best Place to Live in Canada, 2017. Residents enjoy:

  • An abundance of parks and paths for walking, hiking, and cycling (over 1,000 parks, 200 square kilometres of protected greenspace);
  • Excellent health care;
  • A city of festivals and events (as many as 180 different annual festivals, fairs, and special events yearly);
  • Access to 29 museums - including 12 significant national museums;
  • An active city with an enormous number of outdoor and indoor recreation activities to choose from (170 kms of recreational pathways for cycling and in-line skating; boating and skating on a Rideau Canal, a UNESCO World Heritage Site; over 200 kilometres of groomed trails for skiers).

Excellent health care

  • A city of festivals and events (as many as 180 different annual festivals, fairs, and special events yearly)
  • Access to 29 museums - including 12 significant national museums
  • An active city with an enormous number of outdoor and indoor recreation activities to choose from (170 kms of recreational pathways for cycling and in-line skating; boating and skating on the Rideau Canal, a UNESCO World Heritage Site; over 200 kilometres of groomed trails for skiers)
  • It is no wonder that Ottawa is considered one of the top 10 cities for the following rankings: Best Place to Raise Kids, the Best Place to Retire and the Best Place for New Canadians. Overall Ottawa is an ideal city to live and work!

For more information about Ottawa’s quality of life, visit Why I Chose Ottawa!

Global network

As a G7 capital, Ottawa is the political heartbeat of Canada with proximity to a large concentration of policy makers, government departments, and 65 federal research labs.

The award-winning Ottawa International Airport is within a two-hour flight of over 200 million North Americans. As the Nation’s Capital, Ottawa is host to 130 embassies, consulates and high commissions representing countries from around the world, offering you a global network right in your backyard!

For more information about Ottawa's economic advantages visit Invest Ottawa webpage!

Locate Ottawa

Locate Ottawa is the City of Ottawa’s bilingual online geographic information system-based tool that provides immediate access to key information for site selectors and businesses looking for a new or expanded location. This makes the process of identifying the right location for their business quick and easy. It also provides great business data including demographics, consumer expenditure and workforce data for any business. This information can be tailored to a specific need using a user-defined radius, or a unique user-defined shape using the polygon tool.

Revamped in 2021 and powered by the most current version ZoomProspector Enterprise technology by GIS Planning, Locate Ottawa enables business owners and site seekers to learn about what Canada’s capital can offer and lay the groundwork to grow a business here.

Another feature of the Locate Ottawa tool is the ability for commercial real estate professionals, including developers/owners and brokers to list and promote current sale or lease opportunities with detailed information about properties and spaces that are available, site attributes, local demographics, pictures, site/floor plans  and proximity to other businesses etc.

Today, much, if not most site selection screening is done online, and the Locate Ottawa website provides immediate access to the critical business intelligence that decision makers need to make an investment decision. The site reduces research time from weeks to minutes. By providing accurate and timely information for site selectors, Ottawa maintains a competitive global position in attracting and retaining businesses and business investment. By stimulating business growth, the City receives economic benefits through the addition of new valuable jobs, property tax revenue, indirect and induced economic impacts, and the potential to spur further growth, and philanthropic activity.

Bilingualism: An Economic Advantage

Francophone Community Profile

Ontario has the largest French-speaking minority community in Canada. Most Franco-Ontarians live in the eastern part of the province, in and around Ottawa.

A Sizeable Market

According to the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages, Ottawa is by far the Economic Region with the largest share of the Franco-Ontarian population:

  • Ottawa: 42.7 per cent
  • Northeast: 20.7 per cent
  • Toronto: 19 per cent
  • Hamilton-Niagara Peninsula: 4.7 per cent

According to the Census, Ottawa boasted a bilingualism rate of 37.6 per cent in 2016 (347,510 people reported knowledge of English and French), compared to 11.2 per cent for Ontario and 17.9 per cent for Canada (Statistics Canada).

Furthermore, French was the mother tongue of 13.8 per cent (127,225 people) and the first official language of 15 per cent (138,900 people) of the Ottawa population (Statistics Canada).

Because of Ottawa’s proximity to Gatineau, Francophones represent an even bigger regional market. Consider the data for the entire Ottawa-Gatineau Census metropolitan area:

  • Knowledge of official languages—French & English: 44.8 per cent (586,205 people)
  • First official language spoken—French: 32.6 per cent (426,165 people)
  • Mother tongue—French: 30.3 per cent (397,125 people)
  • Knowledge of official languages—French only: 8.3 per cent (108,830 people) (Statistics Canada)

In addition, thousands of people from French-speaking countries visit Ottawa every year. For instance, the city welcomed approximately 22,000 visitors from France in 2017. People with French-Canadian as their computer system language were the third largest audience for the Ottawa Tourism website, representing 10.37 per cent of visitors, or approximately 248,617 unique users.

Offering bilingual customer service makes perfect sense for any business in the region that wants to tap into this sizeable market.

A Diverse Market

Francophones were the first European settlers in present-day Ottawa, establishing themselves in parishes across the region. By the end of the Second World War, when Ottawa had firmly established itself as an administrative centre, Francophones mainly lived in Centretown, Lower Town and Vanier. They were also starting to move eastward toward Orléans.

In the last twenty years, Ottawa has seen considerable Francophone immigration from Haiti, Somalia and sub-Saharan Africa. This has been accompanied by westward movement toward Barrhaven and Kanata (City of Ottawa, Francophones: Equity and Inclusion Lens Snapshot).

This sizeable and diverse market represents a tremendous opportunity for new and existing Ottawa businesses that want meet the demand for a wide range of cultural goods and services.

Access to Bilingual and Multilingual Talent

Census data shows that in 2011, 31.2 per cent of Ottawa Francophones worked in public administration, 10.3 per cent worked in health care and social assistance, and 9.6 per cent worked in educational services (2011 Census cited in Portrait of Official Languages Group in the Ottawa Area, 2015).

Immigrants from France, Africa, Haiti and the Middle East have helped sustain the growth of Ottawa’s Francophone population. According to the Ottawa Local Immigration Partnership, every year more than 1,000 Francophones from around the world choose the city as their new home in Canada. These newcomers have diversified the local Francophone community socially, culturally, politically and economically. They have also brought a wealth of international knowledge, experience and contacts that can benefit local businesses seeking to compete in a global economy.

Francophone Resources

The Business Support Program is coordinated by the Regroupement des gens d’affaires de la capitale nationale (RGA) and funded by the Department of Canadian Heritage. It helps businesses become bilingual by offering French language services such as low-cost translation, help with recruiting bilingual staff and oral communication workshops for people working in the service sector.

For More Information

Recognition and Awards

Ottawa has much to be proud of. More and more people are becoming aware of Ottawa’s many business and cultural advantages. The following are some of the awards received over the years.

Business

#1 Best Tech Hubs to live and work in Canada - Expert Market

#1 Most technology intensive city in Canada – Statistics Canada

#1 of 61 Global Cities for Talent, Technology, Tolerance Quality of Place - Martin Prosperity Institute

#1 Student City – According to Students! – QS Top Universities

Quality of Life

#1 Best place to live in Canada - MoneySense

#1 Best city for Healthy Living in Canada - MoneySense

#1 Lowest cost of living of 5 major Canadian cities - Mercer

#1 Best Place to live for New Canadians - MoneySense