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Why an Amazon.com, Inc. Toronto HQ Could Be a Boon for Canada’s Tech Scene

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Recent reports that Toronto has been included in the list of the finalists for a second headquarter for e-commerce giant Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN) this past week have resulted in a significant amount of discussion among intellectuals in Canada, as industry experts give their opinions on what a second home for Amazon in Canada would mean for Canadian tech companies across the board.

The general consensus is that having one of the most influential e-commerce companies in the world buy into Canada would potentially create a scenario in which the vast majority of Canadian tech talent would be absorbed into what could be described as a support role for Amazon, instead of building the country’s tech industry, and by default, Canada’s next technology juggernaut.

Canada boasts some of the best tech talent in the world and has remained a hotbed for industry-changing companies over the years; companies such as BlackBerry Ltd.  (TSX:BB)(NYSE:BB) have relied on the Waterloo area for some time now for the vast majority of its talent pool, recruiting the best Canada and the world has to offer to its Toronto-area headquarters.

While concerns remain that an Amazon headquarters would likely result in Canadian tech talent being taken off the table, or poached, from other Canadian tech companies that would otherwise utilize said skill sets, it is important to consider the potential positive ecosystem effects such a move would have for the Toronto tech scene should Canada’s biggest city indeed win the “sweepstakes” and lure Amazon north of the border.

For one, tech hotbeds in Silicon Valley, Seattle, and New York have been poaching Canadian talent for years; providing an option for Canada’s high-quality tech talent to stay at home and circulate within Canada’s ecosystem could actually have the opposite effect of leading to an increase in start-ups and funding for Canada-based tech companies that decide to stay in Canada.

And Canada’s immigration policies are one of the key drivers behind Vancouver’s Amazon office, which is often used as a stop-gap measure by the company in bringing talent into the United States. The vast majority of new employees at Amazon do not come from North America, but rather, they come to the company via a very contentious and difficult immigration lottery system in the U.S. Canada could leverage its immigration policy in an attempt to entice said newcomers to stay within Canada, furthering the company’s tech scene tremendously.

Bottom line

While a Toronto headquarters remains a long shot, I believe the overly bearish discussion on the potential scenario of Toronto welcoming Amazon is unwarranted. Canada can maintain a leading role in the North American tech industry by creating its own Silicon Valley of sorts; I argue a Toronto Amazon HQ would be one step in the right direction.

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Fool contributor Chris MacDonald has no position in any stocks mentioned in this article. John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market, an Amazon subsidiary, is a member of The Motley Fool’s board of directors. David Gardner owns shares of Amazon. The Motley Fool owns shares of Amazon and BlackBerry. BlackBerry is a recommendation of Stock Advisor Canada.

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