ICT closing centre in Miramichi

Someone in the Miramichi tells me that ICT Group is shutting its Miramichi verification center in Douglastown down by March 2007, citing restructuring. Apparently all verification work is heading to Ireland and Hyderabad, India. ICT is apparently offering tranfers to the inbound centre which is higher stress and faces higher turnover.

I sincerely hope that BNB is on top of this. The person that contacted me says no but I hope that’s a mistake.

There are a couple of points I need to make here before certain Anonymous posters tell me this is what happens when foreign companies set up in the province.

Miramichi is teetering on the edge of a fairly significant economic crisis. The pulp mill is is jeopardy. Premier Lord gave them millions last year but I am told that is just a short term bandaid. Now ICT is downsizing. I hope that someone in the media can get a clear handle on just what the damage will be. It’s easy for Al Hogan in the T&T to go on at great length (as he did a couple of days ago) about how great New Brunswick’s economy is. If he would take a drive in his Hummer outside Moncton and talk with people, he might have a different view.

I don’t know the specifics about ICT in Miramichi so I don’t really want to bad mouth the company. I do know that there are some call centres who have not increased their wage rates commensurate with the changing market conditions. Maybe ICT’s margins are so tight that they cannot, I don’t know.

The bottom line is that the people that are charged with economic development in the Miramichi and at BNB need to sit down and come up with a serious strategy to grow a few very targeted niche industries to replace those that are leaving or to mitigate the potential effects of a major mill closure.

Is it animation? We know there are some nuggets of opportunity there. Is it aerospace? There’s at least one multinational firm operating there and doing well. Is it higher value added call centres? Ones that can keep employees and offer career tracking? Is it something to do with wood? I don’t know. I do know that someone told me the strategic plan for the region acknowledged a decline in forestry jobs and was pushing for more tourism. You can’t replace forestry jobs with tourism jobs prima facie.

And to my previous points, it’s not just about a new ‘brochure’ saying come to Miramichi. There needs to be a deliberate effort. Key investments made. Serious ‘product development’.

Consider the Atlantic Technology Centre on PEI. The government (s) put millions into a building to attract and grow the IT sector in Charlottetown (a city not much larger than Miramichi). People said they were crazy (the whole ‘build it and will they come?’ thing).

There are now something like 20 IT and related firms in that facility and the recently announced AIM Trimark 300 person facility will start out in the ATC before moving into its own building (not enough space in the ATC).

Physical buildings like this are one tool to attract industry but certainly not the only tool. The NBCC needs to be a key player. How about a specific campaign targeting the dozens if not hundreds of expatriate NBCC Miramich graduates in animation and IT? How would that be for a calling card when you pitch EA or some other firm to set up in the city. “We have a database of 300 exMiramichiers that have said they would be interested in moving back in the IT/animation field if there was a good career opportunity”. R&D is another potential tool. Hiring a cracker jack IT/animation professional to sell the Miramichi is another. Setting up a VC fund and targeting Gazelle firms like FatKat to expand in the Miramichi. By the way, restricting this type of funding to NB only firms makes no sense whatsoever. The NBIF should be targeting firms willing to move into this region.

But I digress.

All of this doesn’t help the people affected by the ICT downsizing. They will be faced with choices. Move away. Try and go on EI for a term. Take a job at less pay.

At some point, somebody will start connecting the dots.