Tech Hub Showdown: Ottawa vs. Washington

Welcome to Part 5 of our Tech Hub Showdown series that compares Ottawa, Ontario, with American tech hotspots Austin, Texas; Boston, Massachusetts; Denver, Colorado; and Silicon Valley, California (Bay Area). For our final showdown, Ottawa is stepping into the ring against Washington, DC.

Ottawa is home to global tech giants, world renowned research centres, and many federal government buildings and institutions. In this showdown, we’ve compared data on Ottawa and Washington to help you make an informed decision on your best destination to live, learn, and grow in tech.

Let’s get into it!

Round 1: Quick facts

Washington, DC, the US capitol, is a compact city spanning approximately 117km2 with a population of 690,0001 compared to Ottawa’s 1.01 million.  Many professionals who work in DC live in adjacent states, such as Maryland and Virginia, so its Metro population is much larger at 6.35 million (US Metropolitan Statistical Areas tend to take in a larger area than Statistics Canada’s equivalent). Canada’s Capital Region, including the cities of Ottawa and Gatineau, Quebec, has a population of 1.44 million.2

Ottawa has approximately 658,080 grads holding at least a Bachelor’s degree, which nearly eclipses Washington’s total population. Washington has approximately 354,426 grads with at least a Bachelor’s degree.3

Washington is a hot spot for government tech and security, hosting 177 foreign embassies as well as the headquarters of many international organizations and professional associations, including the World Bank Group, the Organization of American States, the Human Rights Campaign, and the International Finance Corporation.

As a fellow capital city, Ottawa’s proximity to the federal government along with its innovation and tech ecosystem are causing more companies to locate their major research installations here. Ford Motor Co. Canada announced it will spend as much as $337.9 million on a new research and development centre in Ottawa that will focus on developing autonomous vehicles.

Round 2: Tech talent density

When it comes to the number of tech pros in the city, Ottawa edges out Washington. Ottawa’s tech talent density is at 11.6%, compared to Washington’s 8.8%.4

In CBRE’s 2021 North American Scoring Tech Talent report, Ottawa scored the highest mark for having the highest concentration of tech talent, relative to its overall workforce, of any city in the top-50.

Round 3: Tech talent growth

Between 2015 and 2020, the number of tech pros in Washington grew by 10%. Within the same five-year period, Ottawa doubled Washington in talent growth with 22.5% more tech pros.4

Contributing to Ottawa’s high number of tech pros is the Xtreme Talent Accelerator, which is a complimentary program that supports the city’s future technology leaders with industry-led tech workshops and career development services.

Round 4: Average tech salary

The cost of living is higher in Washington, which means salaries are also high compared to Ottawa.

Renting office space in Washington will cost you about $41.14 per square foot. In Ottawa, you would pay $25.14 per square foot of office space. 5 The average tech salary in Ottawa is US $68,000, while Washington’s tech pros get paid on average US $117,000 annually.7

Ottawa’s residents enjoy a high quality of life at a fraction of the cost compared to major American cities. In 2020, Expert Market ranked Ottawa as Canada’s Best Tech Hub To Live and Work In.

Round 5: Labour market

Ottawa’s labour market experienced a net gain of 5,466 more tech jobs added between 2016 and 2020 than there were graduates in the city. Ottawa keeps its talent and attracts new talent to the area.

By comparison, Washington had 31,851 more tech jobs than there were graduates in the city. With so many more jobs than graduates, it can make hiring top talent more challenging and expensive for start-ups.8

Ding, ding, ding…

Ottawa takes the belt when it comes to talent and affordability.

Want more comparisons? Check out other showdowns: Ottawa vs. Austin, Ottawa vs. Boston, Ottawa vs. Denver, and Ottawa vs. Silicon Valley (Bay Area).

For more information on how you can make Ottawa your next business destination, contact our Global Expansion Team today.



1 Data Commons. (2020). Washington, DC.

2 Statistics Canada. (2021). Population estimates, July 1, by census metropolitan area and census agglomeration, 2016 boundaries [Data table].

3 CBRE. (2021). CBRE Scoring Tech Talent 2021, Figure 4.

4 CBRE. (2021). CBRE Scoring Tech Talent 2021, Figure 3.

5 CBRE. (2021). CBRE Scoring Tech Talent 2021, Figure 21.

7 CBRE. (2021). CBRE Scoring Tech Talent 2021, Figure 19.

8 CBRE. (2021). CBRE Scoring Tech Talent 2021, Figure 6.

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