An economic engine for innovation and growth

Waterloo Skyline
Waterloo Skyline
Tony LaMantia (BA ’87) is the president and CEO of Waterloo EDC (Economic Development Corporation). His impressive 30-year career spans the public sector, IT, mining and investment industries and he attributes his professional trajectory to a transformative experience offered by the University of Waterloo’s unique experiential and co-operative education.

"The co-op program was absolutely transformative," LaMantia says, reflecting on his years as an Arts and Business student which included co-op terms at Kimberly-Clark and IBM. "These experiences were not just stepping stones. They were part of my educational journey and gave me skills to navigate different fields, ranging from public policy to financial services and technology sales."

LaMantia’s experience with co-op is like many Waterloo students. Waterloo’s co-op program leads to better employment outcomes for students. In addition to a higher employment level after graduating than the Ontario average, 82 per cent of Waterloo co-op grads earn more than $50,000 two years after graduating compared to 45 per cent of Ontario graduates.

"The University is central to our strategy for driving economic development, not just locally but on a global scale," LaMantia says, elaborating on how Waterloo EDC communicates the region’s value proposition to international businesses that are considering expansion.

"We’ve created a unique ecosystem here - one that brings together innovative institutions, multinational companies, startups and a talent pipeline that’s largely fueled by Waterloo’s co-op program," he says. "This ecosystem facilitates the seamless flow of knowledge and technology across education, research and business - something that not many other locations can claim."

Local innovations with global impacts

LaMantia draws attention to local success stories like autonomous robotics company OTTO Motors, and med-tech startup, Intellijoint, specializing in hardware and software to transform hip and knee replacements. These companies, started by Waterloo alumni, underscore the University’s role in nurturing talent that continues to push technological boundaries and deliver solutions that shape a brighter future.

"The University attracts entrepreneurs and global corporations alike, drawn here by leading research. Bosch, for example, came to the region because of the various advanced manufacturing labs at Waterloo and experts like [professor] Sebastian Fischmeister, who specializes in the security and performance of critical systems," LaMantia points out.

The University is positioned at the forefront of innovation within the Toronto-Waterloo Corridor - North America’s most extensive tech cluster - and is a hub for transformational research and inspired learning. This prominence not only enhances Waterloo’s reputation but also demonstrates its ability to draw global investments to the region, affirming the University’s integral role in the global tech industry.

The economic ripple effect

Beyond technological innovation, the University of Waterloo contributes to the regional economy through its dynamic and diverse academic environment.

"This is a matter of mobilizing our collective strengths, of enhancing our global visibility and cutting through the clutter," LaMantia says, sharing how Waterloo EDC leverages the University’s reputation to attract businesses and talent to the region.

The economic ripple effect of the University is also evident in its ability to draw and retain talent in the region.

"Through the comprehensive co-op program, supportive entrepreneurship ecosystem and leading research initiatives - the University has cultivated fertile ground not only for startups but also for established industries," LaMantia says. "This synergy is creating an environment that’s perfectly primed for economic growth and innovation."

The University of Waterloo is growing a network of global partnerships that will shape the future by working with industry, institutions and communities. Waterloo’s partnerships infuse research solutions into sectors critical for economic growth and innovation, which is why 34 per cent of its research funding is a result of corporate collaborations.

Challenges and opportunities ahead

By 2050, the Region of Waterloo is on track to reach a population milestone, climbing to one million people. LaMantia is optimistic about the region’s prospects and believes there are opportunities to build an even more robust and prosperous tomorrow.

"We need to invest in our institutions. Businesses, particularly startups and scale-ups, depend on the intellectual property expertise and skilled graduates that universities like Waterloo provide," LaMantia stresses. "By investing in universities, we’re also investing in the future of our economy."

He emphasizes the role of the University as more than an educational powerhouse. "It’s a driving force in our economic framework, sparking progress and innovation across the board."

LaMantia also urges cultivating a dynamic and inclusive community. "To fuel continued growth and attract skilled workers, we must ensure that we have affordable housing, that we are building an accessible modern city and that we’re investing in the social infrastructure essential for thriving communities that are built for all."
Jordan Flemming