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Bruce Leslie, Calgary Economic Dev: Amazon Nixed Calgary for HQ2 Due to Low Tech Talent, Now Holds Local Job Fairs

Jun 14, 2018
by Josh Anderson

CALGARY, ALBERTA – CapRE’s 2018 Calgary and Alberta Data Center Summit featured a full-day of first-rate market analysis and perspective. The opening panel of the day, Greater Calgary Center Market 360: What Firms are Actively Developing, Investing and What are the Unique Regional Advantages from Site Selection, Connectivity and Cost of Power Perspectives? largely focused on two things – what Calgary is doing well to attract data centers, and what it could do better.

data center summitToward the end of the discussion, Bruce Leslie, Vice President for Trade and Investment Attraction, Calgary Economic Development offered some insider insight into one of the most interesting initiatives in Calgary’s recent memory – their bid for Amazon’s HQ2.

“We didn’t get shortlisted, but we did get called about fifteen minutes after they made the announcement,” he recalled. “And they gave us quite a bit of time to talk through their decision-making process. Which I think bodes well [for us]. The city presented well, and they had us on their radar. But their point was that we didn’t have the tech talent. And we didn’t have the pipeline for the tech talent. So that was a real kick in the groin really, at the time.”

However, according to Leslie, the Government of Alberta actually reacted very well to this feedback, and within 60 days had funded three thousand more tech seats at the University system in the province. “So kudos to them,” he asserted. “But then we heard that yesterday, Amazon was here with a job fair, to try to steal the tech talent that we do have! So the message is a little mixed.”

Leslie thinks that the point is that Calgary does have the talent for more data center careers. “They’re maybe underground a little bit, and they’re still working in the energy sector or perhaps still waiting to work in the energy sector, but we have the talent,” he stressed. “So if that’s an issue, if you start adding up all of the different elements that make up a business decision about moving to Calgary, that’s an element that we do have. It’s very positive.”

At that point, Nicholas Jeffery, CEO of Uniserve Communications offered up some advice for Calgary moving forward. “If you look at the Dublin market, the Irish market, they started off ten years ago attracting hyperscale and the Cloud, and they did it with tax incentives, low price and low power.” he remembered. “They don’t even talk about low price and low power anymore. All they talk about is tech talent.”

“So what I would encourage everybody to do is to take a look outside of the borders of Canada, and ask, what is working and what is not working?” he advised. “And then steal those ideas, because there is some really clever stuff happening. And you can avoid the bear trap that people got into a couple of years ago. Tech talent is critically important.”

Bruce Leslie, Vice President for Trade and Investment Attraction, Calgary Economic Development

For more from this panel, check out earlier CapRE Insider Reports:

Leslie was a featured speaker at CapRE’s inaugural Calgary and Alberta Data Center Summit, where he participated in a highly successful panel titled “Greater Calgary Center Market 360: What Firms are Actively Developing, Investing and What are the Unique Regional Advantages from Site Selection, Connectivity and Cost of Power Perspectives?”

 

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