This is a good story. Mariner is adding 30 new well paid IT positions in New Brunswick. The firm is headed up by former NBTel boss Gerry Pond and other ex-NBTelers. This is an important story on several levels. First, it confirms that talented people will stay in New Brunswick. My worry was that all that NBTel expertise was going to vanish after the Aliant merger. Many of them stayed and you can find them in the management teams of a number of successful firms. Second, they are bringing people back to New Brunswick for the jobs. Again, I contend that it is the quality of jobs that matters. In my experience, New Brunswick firms can recruit nationally and even beyond if the jobs are well paying career path oriented ones.
Finally, I think this is a good example of the importance of having both large anchor firms and small start ups in a healthy industry ecosystem. If there had not been an NBTel, there would not have been several of the smartest startup firms in New Brunswick (Genesys, Mariner, Radian6, among others). If there had not been a Nortel in Ottawa, dozens of the brightest startup firms in that city would not have existed. Some economic developers think they can grow a cluster of small firms into big ones by supporting the necessary infrastructure like access to VC, education, incubation, etc.
I can’t find many examples where this approach has worked. In the successful ICT clusters that I have reviewed, they all have a healthy mix of large firms, small firms, good university linkages and supportive industry infrastructure.
Some of my sincere colleagues in the ICT industry in New Brunswick believe the larger firms are a negative influence, raiding staff, repatriating the best jobs back to their HQs somewhere else, pushing up cost structures, etc. I realize there is some truth to this but I hold to the belief that in the longer term, we need that healthy mix. A couple of years ago I looked at a couple of dozen of my favorite ICT firms. I did a scan of the management and found that all but a small handful of the senior management had done time in a larger firm (NBTel, MT&T, IBM, Nortel, Google, etc.) before starting their entrepreneurial venture. If we don’t have those firms here, how will we get those spinoff firms. If there was no NBTel, there would be no Mariner, no Radian6, no Genesys).
Don’t forget to check out the video version of the podcast. I guess we have to decide whether or not to keep doing it. The first one got less than 200 views. I did a little YouTube surfing on similar topic (commentaries about the economy and such) and there are some of the most inane and even strange videos that are getting 5,000 or more views. They are well tagged but there must be something more at play.