York Region…boom town for tech firms
Feb. 28, 2017
Tech talent aplenty
Don’t call it a suburb: York Region, which has enjoyed the fastest population growth out of Canada’s 10 largest municipal jurisdictions, now boasts a population of nearly 1.2 million, and attracts up to 25,000 new residents every year.
The region is a desirable place to work, too, with more than 50,000 businesses spread out over its nine cities and towns – Markham, Vaughan, Richmond Hill, Newmarket, Aurora, Georgina, Whitchurch-Stouffville, East Gwillimbury and King – offering an unmatched quality of life that attracts, and retains, top talent from around the world.
And the tech industry is no exception. Nearly 10 per cent of the region’s companies are in the information and communications technologies (ICT) space.
Take, for example, Clearbridge Mobile, an award-winning software development company that services enterprises with custom-made mobile apps.
Based in Vaughan near the intersection of Highway 400 and Langstaff Road, Clearbridge Mobile’s client base reads like a “who’s who” of top-tier brands: NBC, Universal Studios, USA TODAY, Tim Hortons, Bell Mobility, Shell, The New York Times, Enercare, PayPal and Sunwing, not to mention various Canadian banks and other financial institutions.
Clearbridge Mobile’s co-founder and CEO Deepak Chopra says he and his partner – co-founder and CTO Sanjay Malhotra – both live nearby, but the short commute time to and from work was only part of the reason for planting roots in the region.
“We both worked downtown for 20 years in the financial industry, but we chose to set up our mobile app development studio in York Region because of the great facility we found with lots of parking, close to many restaurants, and more importantly, there’s a ton of great talent up here,” says Chopra. “But yes, there’s nothing better than working a long, full day and then getting home in 10 minutes to take my kids to sports practice,” Chopra concedes. The 41-year-old father of three says many of Clearbridge’s employees live close to its 10,000-square-foot facility. “A shorter commute was very appealing to our employees, as some even go home during the day for lunch.” Approximately half of the 50-odd employees live in the area “because of affordability, friendly neighborhoods and good work-life balance.”
And for those who commute from Toronto to York Region, Chopra says he’s particularly excited about the subway extension coming to Vaughan this year, especially as many employees don’t have a car. “It’s a game changer, actually.”
While York Region is enjoying a burgeoning workforce, Chopra says he’s found employee turnover is very low compared to his experience in downtown Toronto, which should be “an important consideration for any company.”
Chopra says his goal with co-founder Malhotra was to create a compelling “tech vibe,” which he attributes to hiring skilled developers with diverse backgrounds, all contributing to the “great office culture” at Clearbridge Mobile’s headquarters. The company has been in the region since 2012, and at this Vaughan location for the past two-and-a-half years. “We do have a lot of team events to help foster great company morale, and to keep everyone motivated,” adds Chopra.
“We love what we do,” concludes Chopra. “And thankfully, our clients can see the passion, quality and commitment we bring to their brands.”
Close proximity to Toronto’s financial core
While inspiring, Clearbridge’s story isn’t an uncommon one for York Region.
Just 15 minutes away in the City of Markham, Everlink Payment Services Inc is another example of a successful and fast-growing local technology company. They are a leading provider of comprehensive and integrated payments solutions and services for credit unions, banks and independent sales organizations across Canada. The nearly 14-year-old company specializes in financial transaction processing services, mobile payments, fraud management solutions, and payment card issuance services.
“We chose York Region for many reasons,” begins Renald Ching, General Counsel for the Markham-based Everlink. “The area offers a great quality of life, including many residential communities and a thriving workforce, lots of convenient transportation options, and a variety of retail and restaurants.”
“And we’re in close proximity to Toronto, right on the main arteries, but we benefit from being just outside of it,” adds 37-year-old Ching. Everlink moved offices this past year to Commerce Valley Drive West, a stone’s throw from 404 and 407 highways.
On why the upgrade to the 18,000-square foot facility, Ching says the 100-person company had “unique needs” that include ample head office space and a place to house Everlink’s ATM lab, where its testing takes place. Along with “reasonable rent,” the building is newer than its previous office space, with more of a modern open-concept design that encourages collaboration. “Plus, many of our employees live here in the area or go against traffic as they come from Toronto, so staying in the region was a no-brainer.” Ching grew up and currently lives in York Region too, and cites the region’s diversity and quality of schools as additional reasons for residency.
With enterprise clientele including Manulife Bank, Laurentian Bank, Bank of China, and approximately 300 credit unions coast-to-coast, Ching credits Everlink’s success to its commitment to operational performance, innovation and client-centricity above all. “Our financial institution clients rely on us to maintain an extremely stable and secure ATM, POS [point of sale], and mobile payments processing infrastructure, as well as to continue to develop and deliver innovative payment solutions,” he maintains.