Canadian Destination No. 10: Kitchener Growth Reflects on Region

You can’t discuss the growth and countless good things occurring in Kitchener without acknowledging the Region of Waterloo.

And you can’t acknowledge the Region of Waterloo without bringing up the groundbreaking research, booming tech sector, recovering manufacturing sector, thriving university life and rich German roots that have people pulling into town and unloading their U-Haul trucks.

“Kitchener has an amazing reputation as an innovative, resourceful and inventive city – a smart and caring city that embraces diversity and values inclusion,” Kitchener Mayor Berry Vrbanovic said. “By making strategic investments to strengthen that reputation, we are able to support a quality of life that is second to none for our community. It’s clear these investments are paying off in attracting new citizens to our great city.”

Kitchener registers at No. 10 on the U-Haul Top 10 Canadian Destination Cities for 2014. That is off one spot from 2013 but marks Kitchener’s fifth consecutive year in the top 10. The rankings reflect the top destinations of one-way U-Haul truck rentals for the past calendar year.

While migration trends do not correlate directly to a city’s population or economic growth, they are a strong gauge as to how well cities are attracting new residents.

“We’ve been able to attract people from all over the world,” said Art Sinclair, vice president for the Greater Kitchener Waterloo Chamber of Commerce. “Our universities are big engineering, computer science and math schools, and that’s helped us attract some of the world’s leading researchers to this community over the years. We’re getting them from across Canada, the U.S., and now when you look at where they’re coming from, we’re essentially a global market.”

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Click here for more #Uhaulfamous photos from Kitchener

“Kitchener is my hometown,” added David Anstett, marketing company president for U-Haul Company of Western Ontario. “It’s very diverse as far as industry. They have .com companies. Blackberry was founded in the Waterloo Region. There is an ethnic flair because of the German heritage – Oktoberfest every fall brings in a lot of people. There is a strong Amish and Mennonite community outside of town.

“Kitchener is doing a lot of urban renewal, turning old warehouses into condos. The city is very good at re-using things. They’re getting into mass transit by going to a light rail system. The city is growing by leaps and bounds. The growth is all over, but mostly to the west. It’s a thriving community.”

Kitchener, along with the cities of Cambridge and Waterloo and the townships of North Dumfries, Wellesley, Wilmot and Woolwich, make up the bustling Regional Municipality of Waterloo that more than 550,000 residents currently call home – and a projected 750,000 will call home in the next 15-20 years, according to Sinclair.

The University of Waterloo, Wilfrid Laurier University and Conestoga College not only offer some 70,000 combined students in the region a plethora of career paths, but they serve as large employers and spawn research parks – a significant component of the local economy. Tech companies also are drawn to the region, creating the need for more service industries and growing the housing sector.

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Oktoberfest (Credit: Explore Waterloo Region)

Kitchener is home to nearly a quarter-million residents who have access to a progressive, urban environment while being just a few minutes from the open countryside and splendid outdoor activities like hiking, canoeing, skiing and snowmobiling that make this region such a popular destination.

“After Toronto, we’re the second preferred destination for a lot of immigrants outside of Canada,” Sinclair said. “There is a small-town component because there is a significant rural, farming area around us. It’s a bit like Athens, Ga., or Lincoln, Neb., with so many students – only bigger.”

“For 10 years, we’ve been working to build a city that’s magnetic to talented, creative people,” noted Rod Regier, Kitchener’s executive director of economic development. “This data speaks clearly to the success of that strategy.”

Much like Kitchener and its neighbors, U-Haul Company’s presence is growing in the region with 15 dealers in Kitchener and 25 dealers in the Waterloo Region, as well as three U-Haul stores.

The region’s increased demand for moving needs will encourage U-Haul, the industry leader in do-it-yourself moving and self-storage, to extend its reach and assist more people in Southern Ontario.

Kitchener is the first of five Ontario cities to make the U-Haul Top 10 Canadian Destinations. Continue to visit myuhaulstory.com as U-Haul counts down to the No. 1 destination for 2014.

Kitchener residents are invited to become U-Haul Famous. Take your picture in front of a U-Haul product, send it in and your face could land on the side of a U-Haul truck. Upload your photo through Instagram using #uhaulfamous, or go to www.uhaulfamous.com to submit photos and learn more.

Additional photo credits: Biking through Victoria Park in Kitchener (featured image) by Explore Waterloo Region.

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