The first decade of the 21st Century was a good one in Quebec City. Home to the Quebec provincial government as well as thriving technology, research and creative sectors, the city region achieved one of the highest GDP growth rates in Canada (+24%) while unemployment fell from 9% in 2000 to 4.9% in 2013 and 73,000 jobs were created. Economic success was the product of business-government-university collaboration that stretched back into the Nineties, including a 1997 high-tech business summit leading to creation of a downtown tech district, a 1998 economic diversification strategy, and the birth, in 2003, of a regional economic development agency. Progress received a push forward from the 2002 amalgamation of 12 municipalities into an expanded City. Today, seven industries – including life sciences, ICT, value-added materials, transportation equipment, financial services, energy and tourism – generate 44% of the region’s $325bn in GDP.
Building a Skilled Labor Force
In the century’s second decade, Quebec City is challenged to head off growing labor shortages in these fields and to boost the rate of commercialization of the innovations emerging from public and private R&D spending. It has also targeted the digital divide that affects almost one in five residents. To build its skilled labor force, Quebec City and financial partners are investing over $4 million in such initiatives as “It’s Cool to Stay in School,” which encourages students to finish high school and explore science and technology careers. Young people are exposed to companies, workshops, internships and mentoring to motivate their involvement in the digital economy. The Quebec International agency provides online marketing to potential immigrants and programs that facilitate their application for residency and integration into the economy.
City government supports technology entrepreneurship with scholarship programs, a public-private crowdfunding initiative, and innovation events that involve startups and organizations in tackling business and public-sector problems. The city is also the recipient of a Smarter Cities Challenge grant from IBM that aims to reduce the “digital divide population” by 4% through 2016. Meanwhile, the nonprofit ZAP Quebec continues to expand a city-wide set of 500 WiFi hotspots that complement the 98% broadband availability provided by the private sector. With this range of programs, Quebec City hopes to ensure that its story of growth continues into the next decade.
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