As you might expect, making video games for a living was a dream job for Spencer Elliott – but the nearly 90-minute commute to and from work proved to be more of a nightmare. And so the 27-year-old programmer at Game Hive – a popular developer of mobile games, including the ‘Beat the Boss’ series, ‘Tap Titans’, and ‘Battle Run’ – moved to a condo in downtown Markham, a stone’s throw from the studio. “It was a no-brainer to move to the region,” says Elliott. “In fact, I wish I had done it sooner.”
Roy Apoong, an associate producer at Game Hive, mirrors his colleague’s sentiments: “Work is so close to my condo I can go home for lunch.” Apoong says the young age and similar hobbies among Game Hive’s employees makes for a great work culture. Walk into Game Hive and you’ll see beanbag chairs, gaming competitions, and a beer fridge. (Oh, and they’re hiring.)
“Because we all get along, after hours we’ll often go to the movies, rock climbing, escape rooms, go-karting, or paintball – and it’s all close by,” adds Apoong.
Attracting, Retaining Talent
Elliott and Apoong are discovering what many others have before them: York Region’s top quality of life attracts and retains top talent from around the world.
With nearly 25,000 new residents moving to the region each year, it’s one of Canada’s fastest growing communities with almost 1.2 million residents now calling it home. Money Sense’s 2015 rankings had half of the GTA top 100 neighborhoods located in York Region and the Fraser Institute identified 5 out of the Top 10-rated secondary schools in the GTA in the region.
York Region’s fast developing urban centres in Markham, Richmond Hill, Vaughan and Newmarket offer a wide variety of housing options including significant condo development opportunities for young professionals like Elliot and Apoong.
In fact, York Region had the highest increase in high rise condo sales across the Greater Toronto Area between mid-year 2015 and mid-year 2016, and issued almost as many building permits for new condos and apartments as the City of Toronto in the first half of 2016, according to data from Statistics Canada and BILD GTA.
“It’s no surprise York Region has experienced tremendous growth of the past couple of years,” says Michael Uster, senior vice president at Liberty Development Corporation, a leading residential and commercial builder in the Region’s urban growth centres.
“Combine more affordable living spaces with many employment opportunities, and you can see why this is an attractive place to live, work, and play,” adds Uster. “Consider it a ‘best of both worlds’ scenario.”
Along with smaller companies like Game Hive – which may not remain small for long, given their games have been download more than 100 million times, to date – global tech giants have also chosen to open offices in York Region – including the likes of IBM, AMD, Lenovo, Toshiba, SAP, GE, and Huawei. A whopping 10 percent of its workforce has Information Technology (IT) occupations and the cluster is Canada’s largest on a per-capita basis.
The region also boasts “big city” amenities, says Uster – including highly-rated restaurants, shopping, and entertainment options – that are easy to get to thanks to reliable public transit, including a new rapid transit system, along with public and toll highways, and the TTC subway extension into Vaughan in 2017.
“The subway is very, very exciting for the region, as you’ll soon be able to get to and from downtown Toronto quickly and efficiently,” adds Uster. “This leaves you more time to work or spend time with your family or friends, which is what we all want.”
By Marc Saltzman
Special Feature on Financial Post