Lowe's Cos. (LOW) plans to expand into Canada in 2007 by opening as many as 10 stores in the Toronto area, the home improvement retailer said Monday.

"I think it's the right time," said Robert Niblock, chief executive and chairman of the Mooresville-based company. "We have had so many opportunities to pursue in the past few years in the United States."

Lowe's, which trails only Home Depot Inc. (HD) in size, said the new stores will create as many as 1,700 jobs. The company's long-term plans include the possibility of opening as many as 100 Lowe's stores in Canada.

"Canada has a strong do-it-yourself culture," Niblock said. "We've found that people everywhere are passionate about their homes. And we see a lot of Canadians coming across the border to shop in our stores."

Lowe's currently operates more than 1,100 home improvement stores in the U.S. Home Depot has 1,826 stores, including 121 in 10 Canadian provinces, according to the company Web site.

While Lowe's is "understored" in the U.S., the company can't afford to overlook Canada, Niblock said.

"Toronto is the fifth-largest metropolitan area in North America," he said. "This feels right and it's the right time."

Later this year, Lowe's will establish an office in the Toronto area led by Doug Robinson, the company's newly named president of Canadian operations.

Robinson, 45, joined Lowe's in 2003 and most recently served as vice president of special projects.

Shares of Lowe's rose 61 cents to $57.57 on the New York Stock Exchange (search).