Cisco’s $100M Toronto innovation centre

This is another thought experiment for you.

If Cisco had announced a $100 million innovation centre to study the internet of things in New Brunswick would the headline be “Cisco boosts Fredericton’s tech credibility with $100-million innovation hub” or would it be “New Brunswick government gives Cisco $220-million”.  Notice the G&M story buries that part in the middle of the article.

If that investment was made in New Brunswick, think tanks from Toronto to Vancouver would decry the corporate welfare.  In Toronto this is considered a good strategic investment.

The second part of the thought experiment.  How much of the New Brunswick government’s $80 million innovation fund will be used to lever innovation investments from national or international firms?   It’s hard to say for sure but it is likely the vast majority will be carved up into small bits and distributed around to various small initiatives and firm-level innovation efforts.

I don’t have a problem with this in principle but in reality if we want to grow out tech cluster, we should also be thinking about attracting a few more big players.  We have attracted several – notably through acquisitions – and that is okay – but if we want a thriving cluster I think we could do more and attracting centres of excellence such as the Siemens facility in Fredericton is a good example.

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7 Responses to Cisco’s $100M Toronto innovation centre

  1. Trevor MacAusland says:

    The recently announced $25M Data Center in Saint John is meant to serve the region as a Big Data sandbox for the entire region. However, local media only focused on the $5M that Bell Aliant got from GNB and did the simple math of $ of tax credit/# of jobs = $X per job

    If they want to talk about cost of investment per job they should at least mention in the report the rest of the economic impact estimates to give a credible picture. But that doesn’t sell newspaper or increase click rates on #nbpoli

  2. Andrew says:

    Greater Moncton has less than 170k people, Toronto has 2.8 million.

    It’s such an apples to disco comparison – we offer none of the attractive benefits a major metro does.

    This investment equates to about $35/person in the city of Toronto (not GTA).

    Take Moncton’s GTA even, multiply it by $35 – that’s less than $5 million – we’ve had PLENTY of investments on a per capita basis that have been much larger than that.

    What’s the griping about ? Because we don’t have ‘sexy’ investments ? It’s simple – we don’t have a seasoned, deep, nor modern labor force to support real technology plays – not by a long shot.

    What benefits do you see in anyone investing here ?

    I’d like to hear 3 strong points if anyone could make them.

    Not B.S. like ‘friendliness’, – REAL – TANGIBLE things that would make anyone want to bring their money here.

    We could all point out 10 reasons for Toronto, so I won’t bother.

    10-15 years ago in NB, and Moncton specifically, I knew the answers to my own question. Today ? Not so much.

  3. mikel says:

    That’s partly a media problem…Irvings don’t like corporate welfare-unless it is going to them. However, Globe and Mail isn’t exactly indicative of anything. In case you missed it, the outcry was so great when Chrysler was basically blackmailing the government for cash, that they backed down VERY quickly. Nobody was talking about a ‘strategic’ investment or how many dollars the expansion would make. They were talking about how an auto company making big profits which had only recently been bailed out, would dare ask the government for more money. People were getting ready to torch their chryslers,and any executives they could find in the streets.
    But the difference is also economic-I doubt New Brunswick has that kind of cash to attract really huge companies.

  4. mikel says:

    Andrew’s question has always been the crux of this issue. David’s main theme has always been ‘get big investors’, while the common reply is ‘why would big investors go to New Brunswick?

    However, Andrew is missing a bit about the ‘friendliness’ quotient. As I’ve mentioned before, when Fatkat was in its heyday, they had no problem bringing animators to Miramichi from Toronto. They even had a blog talking about how much they loved the miramichi. The problem right now is that employers in Canada are the least progressive companies in the industrial world, and thanks to inter provincial migration and temporary workers, they have no incentives. As others have pointed out, the canadian government is right now paying for Indonesians to take welding training IN Indonesia to train to come to Canada.

    In an economy which proper supply and demand, workers would have some actual clout. When pundits talk about the mismatch between the unemployed and vacant jobs, the reality is that there is virtually ZERO flexibility in canadian jobs.

    Now, maybe Canada will continue to fall behind other OECD until we become an economic basket case, but if that doesn’t happen and the new generation of entrepreneurs actually look at the data that says that ALREADY the most important component of any company is its workforce, then New Brunswick is ideally situated. However, people shouldn’t think that NB is made of martians, there are lots of places like it, which is why its important to pick a niche and support it. Animation used to look promising, but now its pretty much toast. However, if you look at cultural spending, I still think that virtually ANY potential industry out there has as much hope of success as the pipe dream that is shale gas.

  5. Andrew says:

    Ironically, I produced a 200+ page report – commissioned by the Government of NB, titled ‘State of the Current Global Animation Industry’ – which likely didn’t help.

    Given the subsequent vivisection of that industry – it’s thankful we didn’t pour any more public funds into than we’d already wasted.

    I think you’re completely missing the point when you say “they had no problem bringing animators to Miramichi from Toronto.”

    How does giving away good paying jobs to people from elsewhere help ?

  6. anonymoose says:

    > How does giving away good paying jobs to people from elsewhere help ?

    The imports need to pay for lodging/groceries/beer, which helps the local economy.

  7. mikel says:

    I’d love to see that report, however, you can go and look and there was very precious little public money that went into that industry, and certainly not on par with, oh, I don’t know, handing over tons of crown land to them. Not only the above, but I don’t think ANYBODY out there is saying that walls should be erected around the province. The point is that by bringing in people from away, lots of times they tend to know OTHER people from away, and some of them actually have money. It keeps your industry from developing into an incestuous mess which, well, is so many industries in the maritimes. And the point is that if WORKERS come over to an area, and since the main complaint from industry is finding a talented workforce, I think you can do the math.

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