Why BlackBerry Laying Off 4,000 Canadians Might Actually be Good for Our Economy

Last month BlackBerry confirmed plans to lay off a staggering 4,500 employees worldwide, most of them in Canada, including its headquarters in Waterloo.

The 45% workforce reduction means BlackBerry will bleed staff almost weekly for up to nine months, which is devastating on many levels for the company’s employees. But is it really alldoom and gloom?

For some, absolutely. Let’s be clear: people are losing jobs and not all of them will bounce back immediately. But there’s still a very bright silver lining not to be ignored here.

“There are a lot of non-tech firms in Kitchener and Waterloo that are looking for talent,” Iain Klugman, the chief executive officer of Communitech in Waterloo, is quoted as saying in Profit Magazine. “The global experience that exists in BlackBerry could be very beneficial to them, especially those in industries that tend to be forgotten about in the region, such as education and financial services.”

“People are going to be coming out of BlackBerry with a lot of specialized expertise,” Klugman added. “They could add a lot of value of SMEs outside of the tech sector.”

This optimism is shared outside of Waterloo, too.

“A sale could be the start of a new BlackBerry cluster,” noted John Reid, the president and CEO of the CATA Alliance in Ottawa, in Profit Magazine. “Say the company decides to be the world’s best in messaging. It will be significant supplementary technologies to support that, and it’s likely it will look to the local ecosystem—which it has in the Waterloo region, with the University of Waterloo, the supplier base and the availability of Generation Y leaders—to supply it.”

In fact, BlackBerry’s troubles could having lasting effects on all of Canada—good ones.

“The most important issue for the Canadian economy is that we need more anchor tenants,” argues Mike McDerment, a cofounder of Toronto-based FreshBooks, in Profit Magazine. “Our single anchor tenant was BlackBerry; now, we need many of them.”

And McDerment believes this will become possible following the dismantling of BlackBerry’s workforce.

“When you’re scaling the business, it’s hard to find managers and leaders with deep operational strengths and excellence,” he says. “The workforce doing that at BlackBerry will soon be available to help build other anchor tenants. And that’s going to change our economy.”

Photo: Geoff Robins, Canadian Press