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City Focus: Montreal

Olivia Minnock
|Apr 6|magazine11 min read

Montreal, located in Quebec, is home to the largest population in the province and is also Canada's second most populous municipality following Toronto. Montreal had a population of over 1.7mn people as of 2016, and the city's entire metro area encompasses a population of almost 4.1mn residents. The official language of Montreal is French, which is spoken at home by nearly half of the population. The city is known to be one of Canada's most bilingual cities with more than 59% of its residents being fluent in both French and English. Montreal is second only to Paris as being the largest French-speaking city in the world. 

The heart of Quebec business

In 2017, Montreal's gross domestic product (GDP) was nearly US$142.6mn, the largest in Quebec and the country's second largest. In addition to being the region's cultural centre, Montreal is also the headquarters of the Montreal Exchange as well as diverse industries such as technology, finance, aerospace, manufacturing, transportation, pharmaceuticals, engineering, petrochemicals and more. 

Transportation and aerospace

The Port of Montreal is not only a significant Canadian port, it's also one of the largest inland ports in the world. In 2017, port traffic included more than 38mn metric tonnes of bulk and general cargo, up from 35.36mn metric tonnes in 2016. 

Montreal is also a major railway hub of the country and is the headquarters of the Canadian National Railway. Coupled with the port, these two major economic giants facilitate the movement of scores of products, such as consumer goods, sugar, machinery, grain and petroleum products, across the country. 

Within the aerospace sector, Montreal is the headquarters of several prominent companies including:

The Canadian Space Agency, a governmental agency is responsible for all civil and space-related programs. 

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) is a trade organization representing around 280 airlines that comprise 83% of the world's total air traffic. The agency created the IATA Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) program, an internationally recognized and accepted system that evaluates and assesses an airline's control and management systems. 


Montreal was recognised by London's Monocle magazine as the country's cultural capital – and it's easy to see why. Not only is the city the headquarters of Alliance Films, it's also the location of Telefilm Canada's head offices and Television de Radio-Canada. The five studios of the National Film Board of Canada are also located in the city. Montreal is often used as a filming location and sometimes finds itself being used as a stand-in for European backdrops. Many festivals make their home in the city including the Montreal World Film Festival, Just for Laughs and the Montreal International Jazz Festival. Cirque du Soleil is also based in Montreal. 


Montreal's finance sector was ranked 12th by the Global Financial Centres Index on its 2017 list of the most competitive financial regions around the world. The industry employs about 100,000 within its metro area. In addition to being the location of the Montreal Exchange, Canada's oldest stock exchange and the country's only financial derivatives exchange, Montreal is also home to the legal corporate offices of the Royal Bank of Canada and the Bank of Montreal, two of the largest banks in Canada. The head offices of two smaller banks, Laurentian Bank of Canada and the National Bank of Canada. 

Fastest-growing companies in Montreal

Though Montreal is impressive as the home of large companies across a diverse span of industries, it's also known as an incubator for innovative small businesses. The following are just a few examples:

  • IOU Financial

Founded in 2008, IOU Financial specializes in online lending services with a focus on small businesses. In 2016, the company employed about 53 people and posted revenues of between $10-20mn. 

  • Arani

Arani, a company that supplies and manufactures state-of-the-art LED light products for a variety of needs and projects, employed a team of 12 people as of 2016, showed a profit of between $2-5mn in 2016 and saw more than 2,000% growth between 2011 and 2016. 

  • Quadbridge

A prime example of a technology-based small business that is successful in Montreal, Quadbridge was founded in 2007 and has seen its five-year growth expand by 1,674%. The company supplies software and hardware to large and mid-sized companies.