Shovel Ready Strategy

The Region of Waterloo is currently developing its first Shovel-Ready Strategy. The strategy outlines an approach for accelerating sites for employment lands, affordable housing or future community needs like community centres or schools across Waterloo Region. 

As Waterloo Region grows to one-million people by 2050, it is critical that the Region of Waterloo prepare for this growth with the appropriate infrastructure and economic supports.  

What is a Shovel-Ready Strategy? 
A Shovel-Ready Strategy looks at Waterloo Region as a whole and identifies key locations that would be best suited for certain priority uses, such as new business or industrial parks (known as employment lands), affordable housing or future community needs like community centres or schools. 

It also includes preparing land for development, or making it “shovel-ready”. This creates a property that is ready for a business or developer to build on. This typically includes completing environmental work, bringing utilities infrastructure to the site (such as hydro, water, wastewater pipes, etc.), grading the property, preparing possible transit upgrades and early urban planning for the site. 

 Why develop a Shovel-Ready Strategy?
The goal is to create shovel-ready land for future investment and identify land for future development to meet Waterloo Region’s growing employment, housing and community needs.
appropriate shovel-ready lands, businesses looking to invest will continue to choose other communities, which will have significant, long-term impacts on Waterloo Region’s future.

Preparing land in this way makes it more attractive to companies and organizations looking to relocate or build a new location. It also reduces the financial risk of the site and reduces barriers to their project being able to begin, as the timelines for a build project are often very tight.  

In June 2023, Regional Council committed to the development of a shovel-ready strategy that supports future investment in our communitythrough better understanding the site selection process, preparing shovel-ready lands and unlocking regionally-owned land for affordable housing and industrial investment. 

The Provincial government called for regions to begin preparing shovel-ready land to attract large scale investment.  

We have seen this land preparation lead to communities receiving significant new employment and billions in investmentNot having shovel-ready land means Waterloo Region is losing out on thousands of well-paying jobs and game-changing investment in the community. 

How do Shovel-Ready lands benefit our community? 

In alignment with the Region of Waterloo Strategic Plan and the Regional Official Plan, Waterloo Region will benefit in many ways from this type of generational investment, including: 

  • Thousands of new, well-paying jobs and subsequent jobs in related fields such as construction, logistics, supply chain management and others
  • Billions of dollars in investment through the future development of the site 
  • Economic stability and further prosperity that can sustain the community
  • Training opportunities for students through partnerships with post-secondary institutions 
  • Maintaining our current manufacturing jobs base in Waterloo Region by stimulating new, large-scale investment 
  • Securing an anchor large-scale employer for Waterloo Region, and a dedicated partner committed to further investment in the community 
 What makes certain land a good fit for these projects?
There are certain elements that make a property a good candidate for future uses. When it comes to employment lands, some of the factors that make a property appealing have to do with business operating details, such as:
  • Close proximity to major roadways and highways and other infrastructure for ease of shipping, business operations and travel. 

  • Ability to access to nearby services for water and power. 

  • Close proximity to growing communities with skilled workers in their field or industry. 

  • Close proximity to Colleges and Universities for partnerships, training opportunities and hiring recent graduates. 

  • Close proximity to other businesses that might support their operation through related supply services, logistics or transportation. 

  • Lands are able to be ready for the building of a new facility within a short timeline, usually 6-8 months. 

Other criteria for a site selection may also be focused on the quality of life for their future workforce, such as: 

  • Good neighbourhoods and schools for their employees to live in. 

  • Public transportation to make it easier for employees to commute. 

  • Nearby shops, restaurants and entertainment options for employees and their families. 

  • Availability of wraparound supports, such as access to daycare and family physicians 

What consultation was done to prepare the Region of Waterloo Shovel-Ready Strategy? 
Consultation with hundreds of members of the local and global business community was conducted to understand the needs and gaps of locating and growing a business in Waterloo Region. Analysis of recent site selection requests for proposals highlighted the need for shovel-ready land, particularly large land parcels. 

These conversations, along with expertise from partners such as Waterloo Economic Development Corporation (WEDC), Chambers of Commerce, and industry leading site selection firms helped to identify the priority areas for the upcoming Shovel Ready Strategy. 

What are the next steps on the Region of Waterloo Shovel-Ready Strategy? 
The Draft Region of Waterloo Shovel-Ready Strategywill be shared at Regional Council in the coming months.

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