While living in St. Louis, Vigneshwaran Ganesan and his family were looking for a place to live in Canada. Even though they were tempted to move to a larger city like Toronto or Vancouver, they took a different path and came to Windsor.
“I read a lot of articles of people living there and then they can work in Detroit,” Ganesan said.
“So [we] took a chance and [decided to] try it for three months.”
That was in December of 2020.
Ganesan got a job in the tech industry with Rocket Mortgage in Detroit and remains there.
“Everything panned out.”
Afternoon Drive6:50Windsor seeing Canada’s highest growth in tech workers
Ganesan is one of many tech workers who have moved to Windsor recently.
According to a report from Technology Councils of North America (TECNA), Windsor saw a 28 per cent increase in its tech workforce from April 1, 2022 to March 31, 2023.
That’s the largest percentage growth in all of Canada for that time period.
The city saw a net gain of 391 employed tech workers.
A leader in Windsor’s tech industry says another avenue for growth has come from within.
“The rise of international students and the increase of international students coming to Windsor-Essex has had a big impact and the college and university are graduating a ton of people with tech skills,” said Doug Sartori, principal consultant at Parallel 42 Systems.
Sartori says some workers are also choosing to move to Windsor while finding or retaining jobs elsewhere.
And he knows this firsthand, with one of his nine employees living in London, Ont., and another in the Toronto area.
Upsides of choosing Windsor
Good internet connectivity and easy access to Detroit are other reasons tech workers are drawn to Windsor, according to Sartori.
“Within the context of Canada, we have an excellent climate,” he said.
The TECNA report says Windsor’s largest employer is the University of Windsor.
Sartori says both the university and St. Clair College have done well to respond to employers’ needs and what they’re looking for in new grads.
Yvonne Pilon, president and CEO of WEtech Alliance, says people choose Windsor, and more broadly Canada, because of more favourable immigration policies.
Last month, immigration minister Sean Fraser announced Canada’s first-ever strategy to poach tech talent from other countries.
And one of the new programs is aimed at the U.S., with Ottawa hoping to create an open work-permit stream to allow 10,000 American H-1B visa holders to come and work in Canada.
“We’ve got the digital nomad knowing that people can live anywhere and bring their job with them,” Pilon said.
There is a war on talent.– Yvonne Pilon, WEtech Alliance
The net gain of 391 new tech workers coming to the city also saw 166 leave.
“There is a war on talent,” she added
“There’s a big wage disconnect between what tech workers can expect to see in Windsor-Essex and what their skills are worth on the global market or even in other regional markets,” said Sartori.
“The revenue that a company can make from a typical tech employee in Windsor is not the same kind of revenue that a global corporation like Google, Microsoft or Amazon can generate from that same worker.”
In the U.S. the CHIPS and Science Act is a $ 280 billion investment into the American tech industry. And $10 billion is for investing in regional innovation and local tech hubs.
“How do we compete on that front?” asked Pilon.
“That means supporting our technology hubs; our innovation centres.”
Another challenge is the pressure to diversify Windsor’s economy.
The recent standoff between Stellantis, LG Energy Solutions and the federal and provincial governments regarding the NextStar electric vehicle battery plant caused worry that it may disappear after the company paused construction at the facility in May.
Despite a deal being reached to save the facility, Sartori says it showed the need to lower Windsor’s dependency on the auto industry.
However, for Ganesan, his family’s future is in Windsor.
“I don’t have any other plans,” he said, when asked if he would move elsewhere in the future.
“I’m planning to bring my parents here. [I’m] just waiting for the PGP program, which was closed during the pandemic.”