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Thomson Reuters Corp. plans to invest $100-million (U.S.) to help build a permanent home for its growing Toronto technology hub
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Thomson Reuters Corp. plans to invest $100-million (U.S.) to help build a permanent home for its growing Toronto technology hub.

The news and information company has snapped up naming rights and all of the commercial office space in a major redevelopment of the former Southam Press Building. Sitting at the corner of Duncan Street and Adelaide Street West, the original brick structure with a history steeped in journalism was built in 1908.

A year ago, Thomson Reuters announced it would add 400 high-tech jobs over two years to create a centre for exploring new technologies in machine learning, cloud computing and big-data analytics. The expanding centre has made a temporary home in a tower just south of the city's financial district but is ahead of schedule on its hiring plan and could outgrow its current space by the end of next year.

With a 12-year lease on the revamped Duncan Street building and plans to move in early in 2021, the company has secured a foothold that can accommodate its eventual goal of having 1,500 staff at the hub. And it sends a signal about its ambition to tap the hotly-contested talent pool in the region's technology sector. Thomson Reuters is emerging from a years-long turnaround plan and showing early signs of growing momentum in its financial results. But chief executive officer Jim Smith has cast the challenge of keeping pace with technological advances as a matter of long-term survival for his company.

"Our hiring experience [in Toronto] has exceeded my expectations," Mr. Smith said. "It's confirmed, frankly, my greatest hopes for the market as a place to source talent."

The building is being developed by Westbank Projects Corp. and Allied Properties REIT. Thomson Reuters will occupy a 10-storey office space that preserves part of the building's heritage facade, and its $100-million expenditure will pay the lease and build out the offices to meet the company's specifications.

The development, designed by Hariri Pontarini Architects, also includes a 58-storey residential tower atop the offices.

In Toronto, Mr. Smith hopes to recruit a young, diverse work force, which helps to explain the new office's location in a trendy corridor just west of the city's financial core. The Toronto hub is one of six large technology centres Thomson Reuters operates between Bangalore and Dallas, connecting developers spread across 43 countries.

It was launched to build new software and products to serve financial and legal clients in tandem with a global team, employing developers and software engineers. So far, Thomson Reuters has hired about 150 new people in Toronto, 30 per cent of them women, and installed former Intel Corp. engineer Shawn Malhotra as the centre's first vice-president. The company expects to have 400 staff by the end of 2018, and to double that number the following year.

The overarching goal is to make Thomson Reuters more efficient about the way it sources and ingests vast amounts of data, then sifts and analyzes it to make it useful. Even as the company hosts more of its data on cloud-based servers, it still holds a massive 60,000 terabytes of information in its own data centres.

"Certainly, the explosion in the volume of data means that we have to continue to move faster," Mr. Smith said in an interview. "I would guess that there will be elements of AI and cognitive computing built into virtually every new product that we release, beginning next year."

In the Toronto technology centre's early days, one team has helped apply artificial intelligence to improve the effectiveness of the company's World-Check database, which provides intelligence on the risks in doing business with certain people and companies. Other staff contributed to a project to shrink the computing resources required to run the company's Eikon desktop platform, which competes with Bloomberg LP's financial terminals.

"We have some of the world's largest technology problems to solve," Mr. Malhotra said. "Technologists love that."

Woodbridge Co. Ltd., the Thomson family holding company and controlling shareholder of Thomson Reuters, also owns The Globe and Mail.

 

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