The twin cities of Kitchener and Waterloo are located in the region of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada. Also including the neighbouring city of Cambridge, this region has one of the most prosperous and most vibrant economies in Canada, with one of the highest standards of living and lowest unemployment rates in the entire country.
The Waterloo Region of Ontario has a rich history and unique cultural flavour. Before the area was populated by European settlers it was the fertile homeland of North American native tribes who lived along the Grand River for hundreds of years.
Much of the Grand River Valley was subsequently given to Five Nations native tribes who had fought on the British side during the American Revolutionary War.
The original European settlers migrated from Pennsylvania in the early 1800s and purchased large tracts of land from the natives. These lands became the basis of large productive farms, and eventually the cities of Kitchener, Waterloo and Cambridge.
The majority of these early settlers were Mennonite families with a distinctive "old order" way of life. The area around Elmira and St. Jacobs is still famous for its Mennonite heritage. Off the main highway it is a common occurrence to see these folk drive by in their horse-drawn buggies.
In more recent years Waterloo Region has developed a much more diverse culture. These changes have been the result of immigration from all corners of the globe. People are drawn to the area by the prosperous economic activity of the region and the presence of two highly respected Universities.
Historically local industry was anchored in automotive parts and tire manufacturing, meat processing, furniture making, and insurance.
As elsewhere in North America, the manufacturing sector has declined in importance in the last twenty years, and has been largely replaced by high tech and service industries. To a large degree this has been due to the influence of two universities in Waterloo -- The University of Waterloo and Wilfrid Laurier University. The University of Waterloo is one of North America's most important schools for engineering, science, and computer science, while Wilfrid Laurier University boasts a highly regarded School of Business.
Kitchener was the 9th largest city in Ontario with a population of 190,399 as of the 2001 census. It is the centre of the 4th largest urban area - Waterloo Region - with a combined population of 387,319.