What would be more effective in attracting a new cluster? Tax incentives? or improved urban infrastructure to attract and retain more people? Or both? What’s working (or not) in your city?
The province of Ontario (Canada) has announced tax incentives in order to build a digital animation cluster to rival those in Vancouver and Montreal. This sector includes video game programming as well as movie special effects / post production work.
Presumably, they expect the focal point of this cluster will be in Toronto. As nice as St. Catherines and London ON are (where a couple bigger animation firms are currently located), young computer graphics whiz kids will probably prefer to live in more urban, higher density and amenity-rich Toronto.
In fact, according to my friends at the Martin Prosperity Institute, people with creative occupations in SW Ontario disproportionately live in Toronto along the metro line corridors–yet I’ve heard most of them don’t take transit. MPI’s map:
And I wouldn’t blame them for not taking the metro. To me it feels “scary old.” It’s dark, dirty and rickety and I wouldn’t want to take it every day (and I’m a metro lover: I’d happily take Vancouver’s 25 year old sky train every day; I’ve lived in Mexico City and done that Metro every day too). As a result of under investment in this system, I suspect many more people in Toronto drive than would do so if a clean, modern metro existed.
This further contributes to the crippling congestion in the Toronto area. The drain on the economy and quality of life must be enormous. If I were a company considering taking the government up on their tax incentive offer, I would worry about retaining workers. Toronto is a cool place, attracting talent to give it a try shouldn’t be a problem (plus a company can recruit from students at the local universities and technical colleges). But will these people stay if their commute option is gridlock, old ricky metro, or a long go-train commute from a suburb (or a combination of drive in gridlock and go-train).
If the Ontario government has money to spare, and can subsidize industries, perhaps they can kick in a little more to partner with the city of Toronto and fix the transportation infrastructure. This would also benefit their goal of being a more prominent global financial centre.