Foreign investors injected $2 billion into the local economy in 2017 -- a banner year in Montreal -- and business groups are expecting more of the same.

Economic development agency Montreal International said Friday that it has helped 48 foreign companies either move or expand here last year, creating more than 5,000 direct high-paying jobs and 9,000 indirect jobs.

“The reasons people come here is because of the talent,” said Hubert Bolduc, CEO of Montreal International. “Before we used to say that talent followed investments, now investments follow talent.”

With top universities in the city, international companies are taking note more than ever, he said.

“Talent is the new oil, talent is the new gold,” added Premier Philippe Couillard.

While Google wanted to build a new artificial intelligence lab, the company looked to Montreal.

“Montreal has become a pool of artificial intelligence research and Google recognizes that,” said Doina Precup with Google’s sister company DeepMind Technologies.

Facebook also set up an artificial intelligence lab in Montreal last year, as did one of the world leaders in visual effects, the company Double Negative.

With a hot economy comes challenges. The unemployment rate is at record lows, and companies are having a hard time recruiting.

Later this month, Montreal International is bringing a delegation to San Francisco for GDC, the largest video game developers’ show in the world

“And do you know how many companies have already signed up to post their job openings? Thirty from Montreal are coming with us to try to convince people to come to Montreal and work with us,” said Bolduc.

While there is some concern that U.S. President Donald Trump's protectionist policies could impact Montreal industries, Couillard points out that though 28 per cent of foreign investment last year came from the U.S., 64 per cent was from Europe.

Diversification, he said could well be the key to another record year in 2018.

“We have to diversify always,” he said. “Our markets and actually Quebec's economy is one of the most diversified in Canada. This is not well known but figures show it very clearly.”