View from the ‘Loo: City-building conference set for Oct. 9-10 Anthony Reinhart May 30, 2013 View from the ‘Loo It’s never been easier to start a tech company, and to do it wherever you happen to be. That doesn’t mean location doesn’t matter. While it’s true startup hubs are popping up everywhere these days due to increased connectivity and ever-cheaper technology, the healthiest tech ecosystems will be those able to attract and retain the best talent. Since top tech minds can work anywhere in the world, that means the world’s best hubs – Waterloo Region among them – must ensure they are among the best places on the planet not just to work, but to live. Waterloo Region already has plenty to recommend it: proximity to larger centres, relatively affordable housing, a strong culture of innovative entrepreneurship, a vibrant arts-and-culture scene. But we’ll have to work harder, collaborate more effectively and think bigger if we expect to keep competing at an increasingly global level. That’s where city-building comes in, and it’s why you should circle Oct. 9 and 10, 2013 on your calendar. On those two days, Communitech will join with CityAge to present Waterloo Region: The Innovation City, a conference where city-builders from across North America and beyond will discuss what mid-sized cities like ours need to do to become stronger magnets for knowledge workers. The conference, which will include events at the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI) Campus and the Tannery Event Centre, will touch on everything from urban planning, arts and culture and mobility to the vital role that infrastructure – both physical and digital – will play in the knowledge economy. All of these subjects should resonate with anyone who’s been paying attention to the changes Waterloo Region has seen in recent years, particularly in our core areas. The technology sector has been front and centre for much of this change, from the success of BlackBerry – whose former co-CEOs Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis have poured millions of dollars into world-class research facilities – to the rebirth of the former Lang Tannery as the home of the Communitech Hub, Google’s Canadian engineering operations, Desire2Learn and more than 100 startup companies. That rebirth is, in turn, helping to drive the transformation of the region’s central core, where new housing, cultural amenities and transit infrastructure are coming on stream. With growth and change comes tension between what we used to be: a big small town, and what we’ve become: a small big city with an increasingly global population. Within this tension lies an opportunity – indeed, an obligation – for Waterloo Region to not only preserve what has worked in the past, but to prepare for a future that is more urban, more connected and more attuned to the world beyond our boundaries. We will update you as the conference agenda comes together, but for now, we encourage you to save the date and to start thinking about what you’ll have to say about city-building come Oct. 9-10. As this will be my final column until I return from parental leave in September, have a great and restful summer, and enjoy our lineup of guest columnists who will appear here bi-weekly. Anthony Reinhart is Communitech’s senior staff writer, who will be on parental leave until September. View from the ‘Loo looks at the issues, people and events that shape Waterloo Region’s technology sector. Guest columnists will appear every other Thursday during Reinhart’s absence.