Head offices: Greater Montréal holds its own against other major Canadian cities

There’s been a lot of media talk recently about retaining head offices. And hostile takeover bids for hardware chain Rona and mining company Osisko have definitely sparked renewed interest in the issue. Politicians, economists and analysts have sounded the alarm on Greater Montréal’s head office exodus and the area’s relative decline compared to other Canadian metropolitan regions. But what exactly is Greater Montréal’s head office situation? Should we be worried?

Ongoing concern over the loss of head offices and related jobs is explained by the major economic spin-offs they bring. KPMG-SECOR estimates that Québec-based head offices generated wealth in the order of $5.1 billion in 2011.

Head offices

They support over 70,000 direct and indirect jobs in the province.

They also help create well-paid jobs, drive demand for business services, organize high profile activities, and shine the spotlight on the region while increasing its attractiveness. Of course, the lion’s share of these spin-offs goes to the Montréal metropolitan area, home to most head offices in Québec.

Greater Montréal has a lot to bring to the table to attract and retain head offices. Its competitive operating costs, wide range of business services, mostly bilingual population, and proximity to North American markets are just some of the reasons why companies set up their head offices in the region.

Analysis of the most recent data from Statistics Canada shows that Greater Montréal is holding its own against other major Canadian cities. With 14% of head offices and 18% of related jobs located in the area in 2012, Greater Montréal ranks second in Canada, after Toronto.

Montréal has yet to win the race though, as the number of head office jobs has been declining since 2010, according to the latest data from Statistics Canada. The situation is quite different in Toronto and the rest of Canada, but it is difficult to talk about long-term trends for the time being as the data only covers a three-year period. Nevertheless, we must build on what we’ve got to make sure Greater Montréal does not lose ground to its Canadian rivals.

Montréal International’s efforts to promote Greater Montréal’s attractiveness, international mobility and the attraction and retention of human capital have helped turn Montréal into a competitive metropolis with a pool of highly skilled workers. And that’s exactly what companies are looking for.

Kim Somers, Analyst
Economic Research Division

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