I’m sitting in Choice’s Cafe right now on the corner of 4th Ave and 1st Street in Calgary, waiting for someone from my old Intuit office on the 4th floor above to join me for coffee. It seemed appropriate to tell y’all about some recent events at Intuit Canada.
As was lamented recently in Alberta Bubble, the “crown jewel of software development in Edmonton” is moving it’s head from Edmonton to Mississauga. For those that don’t know, Intuit Canada is a subsidiary of U.S. based Intuit Inc., has about 400 ish employees mainly in Edmonton, with about 60 or so in Calgary, others scattered around the country in Toronto, Ottawa, and Sherbrooke. Their highly successful products can be found … well, everywhere … including Turbo Tax Canada, Quicken, QuickBooks and ProFile.
In fact, it’s so successful that it’s story has been one of constant expansion … they are projecting their current workforce to go to about 600 in the next few years. This is forcing the story to have a brand new chapter in Ontario, as Alberta fails in it’s ability to grow and attract enough high-tech talent to fill the seats.
I have had a chance to chat with a few of the people in the organization. Although the head office is moving, this isn’t as gloomy a story as it seems. As it turns out, only the executive, product management and marketing/sales teams are moving, and in fact, the Edmonton office and Calgary office will remain open and vibrant with product development and call centres.
The way I see it, having a more major presence in Toronto will bring good things to the company … relationships with it’s bank, association and retail partners will be better, for example, which is important to fuel it’s growth. And, employees be working for a company with a real national presence vs. being a regional success story. For it’s negative impact on the Alberta high-tech scene, it’s just too bad the head office had to go, vs. developing a larger satellite office in Toronto, but I certainly understand the decision.
The high-tech sector in Alberta continues to suffer from a good pipeline of talent. Enrollment in computer science in both the University of Alberta and University of Calgary is down (the latter causing courses to be cancelled, causing students like my nephew to switch to other majors like business).
Between 1999 and 2005, the influx of head office employment to Calgary increased by 64.4%. The lack of talent pipeline combined with the skyrocketing cost of living is maybe starting to turn that tide … it makes perfect sense for Intuit Canada to relocate to the East. I don’t want to be a Chicken Little, but I sure hope the sky’s not falling.
So what to do? Some really smart technology people in Calgary tell me it’s about equalizing the playing fields with oil and gas:
a) Provincial involvement: investment in high-tech education.
b) High-tech in Calgary needs to have equal to or better pay and benefits than oil compabnies … high tech companies are notorious for bootstrapping their ventures, which means lower pay for their staff.