Spotlight on Quebec: Diverse Industry Generates Robust Economic Growth and Draws Global Business

By: 
Molly Shaw

Although Quebec City ranks as the seventh largest metropolitan area in Canada with a population of more than 790,000, the region is quickly becoming one of the best-performing economies in the country. Recent studies reveal that real gross domestic product (GDP) is building at a recorded 9.5% growth over the last five years, coupled with a low 5.3% unemployment rate. These key indicators, backed by a friendly business climate, have fostered the development of viable industries with serious growth potential, putting Quebec - and particularly Quebec City - on the map a global economic player.

With all of the advantages of a major urban centre, combined with rich agricultural regions, Quebec is experiencing dynamic growth, particularly in the areas of information technology (IT) and electronics, insurance and financial services, life sciences and nutrition, food processing, hospitality and green building.

“Quebec is full of primary resources and occupies an interesting place in the food processing sector,” says Jean-Pierre D’Auteuil, head of media relations for the Ministry of Economy, Innovation and Exports.

In order to position its regions as centers of industrial expertise, the Government of Quebec has implemented a clustering approach called ACCORD. The ACCORD project is a national cooperation initiative and its goals are to: position Quebec’s regions as hubs of specific industrial skill; increase productivity and employment by focusing on innovation and export activities; identify concrete economic projects with impact in Quebec’s regions; identify group projects to improve quality of life and the vitality of communities and to promote the development of intra and inter-regional networks.

“Specifically, the regional development strategy of the Government of Quebec, using the ACCORD approach, relies on the presence of 11 areas of excellence tied to specific regions including five in the bio food sector,” explains D’Auteuil.

The bio food sector and corresponding regions are:

  1. Health Food in the National Capital area
  2. Agroboreal in the Saguenay Lac-Saint-Jean area
  3. Processing in the Montérégie area
  4. Nordic Agriculture focused on beef production in the Abitibi-Témiscamingue region
  5. Marine resources, science and technology in Bas-Saint-Laurent, North Shore and Gaspésie-Îles-de-la Madeleine area

Business eyes on Quebec City

In the heart of the province, one organization working to ensure economic development in the Quebec City metropolitan area is Quebec International. Quebec International fosters business growth, supports key economic clusters and attracts talent and international investment to the region.

“Originally, the economic development agency existed as two organizations – now we’re one, working toward attracting foreign and direct investments and international companies looking to expand and open operations in Quebec City,” explains Carl Viel, CEO and president of Quebec International. “We help international companies develop a growth strategy here and we support local companies looking to grow abroad. We also have an in-house team of people focusing on fostering startup businesses in Quebec City.”

Quebec International also exists as a go-to source for industry information, looking at all facets of the regional economy under a microscope. “Quebec International promotes a healthy, competitive environment by producing annual reports on the economic landscape in the region,” says Viel. “We have full-time economists on staff looking at the unemployment rate [which is the lowest in recent years], Quebec City’s exports, the cost of opening operations and doing business in Quebec City and much more. We conduct many different studies to see where we sit in terms of our business climate in comparison to other major cities around the world.”

Viel says Quebec City is certainly showing signs of prominent global standing and other agencies outside of Quebec International have also pointed to the region as a hotbed of economic activity. “A study conducted by an outside Australian agency reveals Quebec City is on top as one of the most diverse economies in Canada – something we’re obviously very proud of,” he says.

Quebec

According to KPMG’s biennial study, a comparative analysis of business operating costs across 107 cities from 10 countries in North America, Europe and the Asian-Pacific region, the Quebec City metropolitan ranks No. 1 worldwide among urban areas with 500,000 to 2 million inhabitants. Overall, business location costs are 9.3% lower in Quebec City in relation to the U.S. average.

Quebec International has compiled a list of top 10 reasons why businesses should look to Quebec City:

  1. A safe environment for investment
  2. Strategic access to markets
  3. A robust, high-performance economy
  4. Strong industrial diversity
  5. Ideal innovation platforms
  6. Specialized and educated workforce
  7. Tax breaks and low costs
  8. World-class infrastructure
  9. Unbeatable quality of life
  10. Outstanding outreach and assistance networks

Key sectors

Viel says there are a handful of sectors that show exceptional growth across Quebec. “IT is strong and Quebec is home to some of the top IT companies in the world,” he notes. “The life science and health nutrition industry is also ramping up as people look more closely at their diets and nutrient intake. Recently, a new bio-pharmaceuticals company made a major announcement that they’ll be making Quebec home in the coming year, adding 200 local jobs.”

In Canada as a whole, the number of natural health products (NHP) to hit the shelves and the number of nutraceutical and supplement companies to enter the market, has increased dramatically. In fact, the Canadian Health Food Association (CHFA) reports 70% of Canadians use NHPs – making it a $3 billion a year industry.

“Insurance and finance comes in about third as the fastest-growing sector, followed by food and drink and hospitality,” says Viel. “The food scene is strong in Quebec City; the city was just named one of Conde Naste Travel’s Readers Choice top 20 cities in the world for food.”

Quebec City was and still is a huge participant in the farm-to-table movement, long before it was popular and now the city is on the must-see-and-eat map for travelers. The city’s proximity to the Île d'Orléans just down the St. Lawrence River plays a role in supplying the best of local meat, dairy and farm-fresh produce.

“Quebec City is just 10 minutes from Île d'Orléans – home to many local producers famous for cheese and charcuterie, poultry and pork, cranberry and maple products and more,” says Viel. “All of these products are finding their way into restaurants and local shops – it’s all part of a long-lasting tradition.”

In addition to a burgeoning restaurant scene, food processing is also prominent in Quebec City. “We have many leading companies in manufacturing and private-label production in everything from cereals to nutrition bars and these companies are selling to five different continents, particularly U.S. customers,” adds Viel.

All signs point to future growth for the eastern province and its capital. “From a global perspective, Quebec is in great economic standing,” says Viel. “The diversity of our industrial economies and strong R&D in Canada drive growth.”

Viel also points to the Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement (CETA), an agreement to allow more free trade between Canada and European Union countries as a growth driver. “Quebec is in a unique position,” he says. “I see these trends continuing and business growing.”

A diverse economy is a healthy economy – such is the case in Quebec as the province builds on a strong foundation for a viable future.