Construction has begun on an 11-storey, 300,000-square-foot expansion
to Google’s offices at the Breithaupt Block in Kitchener, Ont.
(Communitech photo: Anthony Reinhart)
Google will more than triple its Canadian footprint over the next two years, adding roughly 2,000 employees to the current 1,000 at its Waterloo Region engineering office alone, with additional new positions in Toronto and Montreal, the company announced today.
By 2022, Google expects its overall Canadian contingent to grow to 5,000 employees, up from more than 1,500 today.
The company also announced today that the Waterloo Region office, in the Breithaupt Block on the western fringe of downtown Kitchener, will host Google’s first Canadian in-house startup accelerator. It will focus on machine learning and artificial intelligence, two fast-growing areas in which Canadian researchers have led the world.
Read more: Q+A with Google's Steve Woods
Today’s announcement comes less than a year after owners of the Breithaupt Block announced a $150-million-plus expansion for an unnamed “high-calibre user.” Work began in November to make way for an 11-storey building that will add close to 300,000 square feet to the development. Google currently occupies 185,000 square feet at the Breithaupt Block.
Making today’s announcement in Toronto, Ruth Porat, Google’s Chief Financial Officer, said new offices will also be built in Toronto in Montreal as part of the Canadian expansion.
Google’s first Canadian office opened in Toronto in 2001 with one employee. In early 2006, the company established a modest Waterloo Region presence near the University of Waterloo when it announced it had acquired Reqwireless, a startup that made mobile browser software.
Fuelled in part by the high quality of UW engineering talent, Google’s local operations grew quickly, and the company announced it would move into the newly renovated former Lang Tannery in 2010, along with Communitech and edtech software company D2L (Desire2Learn). Bursting at the seams by early 2016, Google was on the move again, occupying its current location in the nearby Breithaupt Block.
Over that time, the Waterloo Region engineering office has become a critical linchpin in Google’s global operations, delivering on major projects including the latest version of Gmail in 2018 and the new Stadia gaming platform last year.
As the company’s local presence has grown, its involvement in the broader Waterloo Region tech community has deepened, with Google supporting entrepreneurs and community groups with programming and resources. The new Google for Startups Accelerator announced today will be the company’s 12th globally.
“Google is committed to helping the Canadian startup ecosystem thrive by investing in an Accelerator in Waterloo,” said Steve Woods, who heads the Waterloo Region office as the company’s Canada Engineering and Waterloo Site Lead. “As the Toronto-Waterloo corridor continues to be a global centre of tech talent and innovation, it’s the perfect place for us to expand our footprint, and help grow the next generation of founders in Canada,” added Woods, who grew up in Saskatchewan and earned a PhD in computer science at UWaterloo.
Communitech CEO Iain Klugman said “Google’s amazing growth and strong support for startups in Waterloo Region is further proof that there is no better place in Canada for tech talent to call home. This investment really builds on the status of the Toronto-Waterloo Corridor as a world-leading innovation ecosystem.”
Tony LaMantia, President and CEO of Waterloo Economic Development Corporation (EDC), also cheered today’s announcement, saying “Google has carefully and steadily grown its mandate and presence in Waterloo to become a major collaborative anchor company in our globally significant tech scene. More importantly, it has strengthened our ecosystem by becoming a magnet for great local and global talent.”
Ontario Premier Doug Ford said "Google has a global reputation for advancing innovative technology and many people from Ontario have played a pivotal role in the company’s ongoing success. By expanding their footprint in Ontario, Google will continue to tap into some of the best talent in the world in one of the most business friendly environments in the world.”
As part of today’s announcement, Google’s philanthropic arm, Google.org, pledged $2.5 million to NPower Canada, a charitable organization that launches underserved young adults into meaningful and sustainable careers.
Google also released a report on the impact of its products and services on the Canadian economy, which found that its search and advertising tools helped generate as much as $23 billion in economic activity in 2019. That equals 1.1 per cent of Canada's total GDP, supporting 240,000 jobs, more than the aviation or forestry sectors, according to research by Public First, a global consultancy that analyzes economic trends.