Make room Google: Microsoft announces new Canadian HQ in Toronto

By:  Monica Nickelsburg

Microsoft is the latest American tech titan to see something special in Toronto.

The Redmond, Wash., software giant announced plans to build a massive new Canadian headquarters in Toronto, promising to invest $570 million in the facility. Microsoft expects to move into the new facility, located at 81 Bay Street, in Sept. 2020. The company will relocate its current Canadian headquarters and several other offices, dispersed through the country, to the new headquarters.

Toronto is having a bit of a moment on the global tech stage. Google sister company Sidewalk Labs is developing a plan to create an innovation district on the Toronto waterfront as a proof-of-concept for technologists who believe they can improve urban planning. Google plans to relocate its Canadian headquarters to Toronto as part of that initiative.

Toronto’s Eastern Waterfront braces for a tech-driven makeover by Sidewalk Labs. (Sidewalk Labs Photo)

Meanwhile, Amazon is considering Toronto for its second headquarters. It’s the only city outside of the U.S. to land on Amazon’s short list of 20 finalists for HQ2, a $5 billion project that promises to bring 50,000 jobs to the winning locale.

Expanding in Toronto gives these tech companies access to a deep talent pool. A July report from real estate services company CBRE ranked Toronto as No. 4 for tech talent out of 50 cities in the U.S. and Canada. Over 240,000 workers comprise Toronto’s tech talent pool, a 51 percent increase since 2012, according to the report. The Canadian city is No. 1 when it comes to “brain gain” according to CBRE. In other words, tech workers educated in Toronto tend to stay there after graduating.

“By relocating our headquarters to downtown Toronto, we will be able to better serve our customers and attract top talent to continue to drive innovation and growth for our Canadian customers and our large partner ecosystem,” Microsoft Canada President Kevin Peesker said in a statement.

Microsoft’s Toronto headquarters will take up 132,000 square feet over four floors, which are currently under construction. Microsoft has 2,300 employees in Canada and an additional 14,000 partners that the company works with. Microsoft says that its expanded Canadian ecosystem (including employees and partners) could account for more than 60,000 jobs by 2020.

The company will move its existing headquarters in the Toronto suburb, Mississauga, to the new facility on Bay Street. Microsoft will also relocate its Vancouver sales office and Montreal R&D lab to the new headquarters.

“Microsoft’s latest investment in Canada — totaling $570 million — will create hundreds of new jobs and benefit several cities, from Vancouver to Toronto to Montreal,” said Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in a statement. “I know our highly-skilled, diverse workforce will continue to attract tech investment in record numbers – growing our economy and creating new opportunities for Canadians across the country.”