By: Adam MacVicar, Global News
It’s often overlooked and overshadowed by other industries in Saskatoon, but the city’s tech sector is seeing substantial growth.
“There’s absolutely a really cool boom happening here and a great feel,” Jeff Dyck, Solido’s vice-president of operations, said. “It’s a good place to be a technologist.”
Solido Design Automation makes computer-aided design software used by companies that make chips for electronic devices. They currently employ 70 people in Saskatoon and that number is expected to grow to 100 by the end of the year.
According to a new report by the Saskatoon Regional Economic Development Authority (SREDA), there are currently 65 tech businesses operating in the city, employing around 8,000 people within the sector. That’s roughly 2.5 per cent of all business in Saskatchewan.
“They often have well-paying jobs, they attract talent, they develop new a lot of spin-off companies as well,” SREDA president and CEO Alex Fallon said. “So it’s an important sector for a diversified and growing economy.”
The report also looks toward the future and ways to grow the sector with feedback from stakeholders.
The recommendations include a focus on acquiring talented technologists using marketing and emphasizing tech in schools. This would go hand-in-hand with new research grants and tech management training while scaling up support.
The third recommendation focuses on capital funding, including tax credits for tech companies and angel investors.
“A lot of other parts of Canada do have incentives for angel investors, here we don’t,” Dyck said.
“It’s been demonstrated to incentivize people to put money into new companies and that gets new companies off the ground, creating a really nice, diverse economy. So, something that’s missing here absolutely.”
Although there are no plans to lobby for tax incentives and credits just yet, SREDA said they’ll use the information gathered in the report to develop new strategies to improve growth.
“We’re going to see more companies be successful here, we’re going to see very high retention of our talent, people aren’t going to be moving elsewhere, that’s going to create a really good foundation, and we’re going to see a lot of people moving here and I already see that happening too,” Dyck said.
A strong tech sector could help attract other major players in the industry, like Amazon, which is looking to open a second headquarters in North America.
SREDA said they’ll be keeping an eye on that proposal.
“We’re always interested in attracting new companies to Saskatoon, especially large companies that could employ a lot of people,” Fallon said.
“We’ll be taking a very close look at the Amazon [request for proposal] and we’ll be looking at if we could put in a bid.”