Montreal lives an unstoppable transformation process in an effort to combine the values of a splendorous past and the opportunities of a new age, coupled with technology, culture and the travel industry. A recent study conducted by the Institut du Quebec in collaboration with Conference Board of Canada and HEC Montréal has shown that the city is not developing its full potential, but it has one card up its sleeve: quality of life. In fact, Montreal has been included over the years in all world rankings that assess the quality of life in the main cities of the planet. According to this study, which has drawn a three-year comparison between this city’s performance and the outcomes reported by other large cities in North America, Montreal has several economy-related weaknesses, but it features affordable housing, crime rate in low and there is an array of public transportation offers. These variables are taken into account by entrepreneurs, investors and university students when it comes to choosing a city to settle down. In this sense, Montreal has an advantage over other cities in the area. Startups are launched everyday with the aim set on technologies related to health care, movies, entertainment, aerospace development or ICT. These sectors require high technical training and recycling and modernization capacity, which are the main characteristics of the 21st century Montreal. Moreover, it is important to mention the great cultural industry that has flourished in the city, supported by such internationally prestigious events and institutions as the Jazz Festival, Blue Metropolis Festival or Cirque du Soleil.
1 A STRATEGICALLY-POSITIONED CITY
Montreal is one of the best-located cities on North America. It only takes a 90-minute flight from Boston, New York or Toronto. It is the capital of a huge metropolitan area that houses over 4 million people and generates a third of Quebec’s Gross Domestic Product, which is the largest province in Canada. That privileged position has turned Montreal into a strategic communication hub with three airports –two of which are international -, and its port is one of the busiest of North America. This is one of Canada’s main access routes for shipment, with an annual traffic that goes beyond 28 million tons and connections with over 100 countries. Moreover, Montreal offers one of the best public transportation services on North America, according to the American Public Transportation Association. Its subway network, featuring 68 stations and four lines, is one of the most efficient of its kind in Canada. There are some other interesting details: Montreal is part of a market niche made up of almost a billion consumers thanks to the NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) and CETA (Comprehensive Economy and Trade Agreement), with access to over 40 countries, nearly 1.2 billion consumers and combined GDP of almost 41.2 billion American dollars (half of the world production of goods and services).
2 A COMPETITIVE METROPOLITAN AREA
Montreal and Quebec have aggressive policies in terms of taxes in an effort to facilitate the establishment of new companies, especially those related to the tech industry. It occupies the second position among the 20 largest metropolitan areas on North America in terms of commercial tax burden competitiveness. This privileged list is also made up of such outstanding cities as Atlanta, Cleveland, Toronto, Dallas or Phoenix. It is estimate that, by combining all economic sectors, these operating costs are 10 percent lower than the average of nearby cities. The metropolitan area known as Greater Montreal offers the lowest tax burden on North America for R & D companies, thanks to a competitive tax rate policy and generous tax bonus provided by the governments of Canada and Quebec. This is complemented by a tax map that positions it below the average of its direct competitors.
3 A TAX POLICY THAT FAVORS ENTREPRENEURS
Greater Montreal has developed an attractive tax incentive program that offers significant advantages for companies, such as refundable tax credits in sectors related to ecommerce or multimedia production. Thanks to these elements, businesspeople can recover up to 30 percent of the annual wage of a worker that makes up to 20,000 Canadian dollars. It is important to highlight the support provided to the movie industry, with a great impact on Montreal’s economy, and the aerospace industry, which represents over 4 percent of the total investment that is annually received by the metropolitan area. As for the first one, it is given up to 38 percent of combined tax credits per production services, 20 percent of refundable credits by the government of Quebec for production expenses, a 16-percent bonus related to hiring expenses for productions that include special effects and computer animation (with scenes filmed in front of a chroma key screen), and 16 percent of non-refundable tax credits for hiring expenses to be determined by the government of Canada.
4 A STATE-OF-THE-ART AND DIVERSIFIED ECONOMY
Most of the economic growth experienced by the metropolitan area over the past years has been based on the development of such strategic sectors as health-related technologies, aerospace industry, culture and telecommunications. This fact has helped Montreal develop a dynamic ecosystem of startups that has managed to adapt to the market requirements and strengthen an open, disruptive and innovative economy. Over 1,700 startups and tech companies have been registered. This figures go to a new high when learning that over 400 new startups have been launched since the early 2017. Several reports show that Montreal received most of the venture capital during the second quarter of 2017. In the April – June period, the city received nearly 50 percent of all Canadian venture capital funds, some 189 million dollars, according to PwC Canada and CB Insights.
5 SEVEN STRATEGIC CLUSTERS
The diversification of Montreal’s economy is expressed through the creation of seven clusters that engulf the main industries of the metropolitan area in a bid to work with a common development strategy and economic initiative. The companies that join these “clusters of excellence” add up to over 400,000 workers, which represents 20 percent of the area’s total. This industrial power is buttressed by research projects, support lines for new businesses and spaces to debate on the economic future. These clusters: Aero Montreal, Quebec Aerospace Cluster, Quebec Film and Television Council; Ecotech Quebec, CargoM, Finance Montreal, Techno Montreal and Montreal In Vivo.
6 ONE OF THE BEST CITIES ON EARTH TO LIVE IN
For a long time, Montreal has been included in the Top10 of the best cities of the world to live in. It has been given awards and prizes for its sustainable growth, the quality of its public transportation, its cultural and social life, richness of its gastronomy, traditions and value of its architectural heritage. In summer time, people are all over the streets and most of its historic core goes into pedestrian mode so inhabitants and visitors can move throughout this area, a decision that was praised by prestigious Lonely Planet travel magazine when giving it the third position among the best summer cities of the world. A recent ranking issued by Nestpick points out that Montreal is the second best city for the millennial generation, those who “were born surrounded by technology, with enterprising spirit and travel experience,” according to the description given by the website. In 2013, it was chosen has the best North American city and 11th around the world when it comes to riding a bicycle; the UNESCO labeled it as “Design City” since 2006. The housing market is cheaper than Toronto or Vancouver, although the average price of a two-story house in the first quarter of 2018 was 492,751 Canadian dollars, which represents an 8.3 percent increase if compared to last year, according to Royal LePage real estate agency.
7 ONE OF THE MAIN CENTERS FOR COMPUTER ANIMATION AND VISUAL EFFECTS ON PLANET EARTH
Montreal leads the IT sector in Canada. It is a flourishing space for entrepreneurs that registered 107,500 qualified employees and 5,240 companies last year. Over 22,000 university students enrolled in IT-related fields in 2016-2017, which had a direct impact on the fact that the city presently holds the eighth position on North America in terms of the job concentration in this sector in 2016. It is described as the fifth world center for videogame production and the first one in the country. Besides the great talent network and solid synergies with universities, this reality is backed up by the fact that it occupies the first position among North American cities offering the lowest operation costs for IT companies related to software development, with an average advantage of 27 percent if compared to its direct competitors. In the videogame sector, software development or IT applied to healthcare and finances, Montreal has strengthened its international leadership and attracted the support of such big companies as Alcatel-Lucent, Bell, CGI, IBM, Rogers, which invest millions of dollars in research with direct application in local economy.
8 A BILINGUAL AND CULTURED UNIVERSITY CITY
Montreal has a marked and unique identity, with a well-defined personality, based on the profound French influence on the province. 50 percent of the population speaks both English and French (it is only 8 percent in Toronto), and over 20 percent fluently speaks a third language, so Montreal stands out as the most bilingual and trilingual city of Canada. Last year, it was praised as the best city of the world for students, by QS Best Student Cities, a spin-off of the annual QS World University Rankings. The Quebecois city, Canada’s university center par excellence, offers degree courses in two great international languages, with such English-speaking universities as McGill University, and French-speaking University of Quebec. In order to join this qualification board, the cities must have over 250,000 inhabitants and at least two universities. Montreal is far beyond those requirements. Every year, it welcomes over 40,000 new graduates, it has 11 university institutions and several prestigious colleges. As for the labor market, Montreal holds the seventh position in North America because of the concentration of high-tech jobs and the first one in Canada with research-specialized universities.
9 MONTREAL IS THE MOST CULTURE-FRIENDLY CAPITAL OF CANADA
Montreal’s cultural life is one of the most dynamic and attractive of Canada. The city’s musical and theater movement has long led Canadian creators and festivals like the Jazz Fest are a cant’-miss event in the country’s cultural calendar. “Montreal is one of the North American cities where people spend more time out in the street, even during the winter,” according to several cultural analysts. That element was related to social habits, which is unusual in the rest of the country and shows the importance of cultural policies established in the city and the significant expense in the creation of new spaces for artistic expressions. Actually, Montreal is the seat of Cirque du Soleil, perhaps the most famous Canadian company around the world.
10 CANADA, A COUNTRY WITH GREAT ECONOMIC STABILITY
Canada is one of the strongest economies within the G20. The OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) underlines in its latest report that a light contraction is expected in 2018 after the powerful economic growth experienced by Canada in 2017, although the numbers will keep on showing a robust and solid economy. The GDP growth in the fourth quarter of 2017 was 1.7 percent and economists predict that this year will not see such figures as the 4 percent reported in the first quarter of last year. The country created 32,300 new jobs in March, thus taking the unemployment rate down to 5.8 percent and matching the lowest report since Statistics Canada began to measure this indicator back in 1976.