Millennials Make the Move to Rural Ontario?

Bayfield, Ontario

Rural places like Bayfield, ON, are attractive to tech-savvy Millennials, as long as they offer big bandwidth.

Tony Scott is a Millennial, and the founder and president of Akira Studio, an established tech company based in London, Ontario that designs, develops, and hosts websites for over 450 companies across the globe. Akira employs web developers, software engineers, network analysts and content creators that work together to optimize the online presence and competitiveness of a business. All of these jobs require high skills, are in demand, and can be performed anywhere – anywhere with a high-speed Internet connection.

“My team and I rely on high-speed fibre to meet with clients using video conferencing and to connect with web servers based all over the world,” said Scott. “The nature of our work means that we can choose to work wherever we want.”

Like many others in the growing cohort of successful Millennial entrepreneurs, balancing work and lifestyle is an important goal for Scott. Drawn to the lifestyle benefits and sense of community in Ontario’s rural Huron County, Scott wants to relocate fulltime – himself and Akira Studio headquarters – to his seasonal residence located south of the village of Bayfield. However, the Internet service currently available to his rural residence isn’t able to meet his business needs.

“I know there are other people like myself who want to relocate and work from nicer surroundings like those found in Huron County – especially the Millennials who have a life ethic of not wanting to work in a fixed office during regular hours,” added Scott.

In April, Huron County Council partnered with Comcentric – a cooperative of local Internet service providers – to submit an application to the Government of Canada’s Connect to Innovate program. The project proposes to connect 98% of Huron County’s population with high-speed fibre within 3 years. To leverage federal investment in this project, which is expected to cost a total of $31.5M, County Council has committed 22 per cent or $7M over seven years to help make it happen.

“Huron County’s project to expand broadband connectivity would attract highly-skilled labour and the human capital that comes along with it to rural Ontario,” said Warden Jim Ginn. “However, we can’t build this infrastructure alone and are calling on the federal government to partner with us.”

For Scott, having reliable high-speed fibre is the difference between being in business and not being in business. Huron County Council recognizes this reality and is trying to attract these entrepreneurs and grow the regional economy. “Expanding high-speed connectivity is a top priority of Council,” added Warden Ginn.

Home to 60,000 full-time residents, Huron County is one of the most agriculturally productive regions in Ontario. Major sectors of the local economy include agri-business, manufacturing, professional services and tourism.