Saturday, March 8, 2008

Intuit moving its head office

First it was Dell, then TD and now it is Intuit.

The crown jewel of software development in Edmonton- Intuit Canada-is shifting its head office to Toronto. No prizes for guessing the reason-it’s too hard to find talent here and too hard to sell Edmonton to potential employees from east and rest of the world.

"It used to be one of our big sellers that people could come out and start a family here, but the cost of living is working against us now."

A recruiter friend of mine says that it used to be an easy sell to bring someone from Halifax or Toronto- same or better wages and lower cost of living.

Now one part of the story has changed drastically-same or somewhat better wages but much higher cost of living. Of course, higher cost of living is predominately higher cost for housing. For both renting and owning.

Higher wages and higher cost of living together would not be such a deadly combination (Bay Area, NYC, London etc come to mind) if the city had something more to offer (Edmonton especially). Other than 9 month long winter, a huge mall, river valley, the 14 animal zoo, four glass pyramids and 400 kms separation from mountains, the city doesn’t offer much.

Edmonton used to be a good place-for all its worth-when things were not berserk here. Rampant inflation and exorbitant cost of housing is deterring companies in ICT industry to continue to operate here.

All along the ‘bust’ years of Alberta economy (mid 80s to until early 2000s), the Alberta and the municipal government tried hard to diversify the provincial economy. Information and Communication Technology industry, along with bio technology and life sciences were the focus area.

It’s too bad that every time an energy boom arrives, it causes a ‘bust’ in all industries other than energy. And when the commodity cycle turns, there’s nothing left to counterbalance the energy industry weakening. So Alberta really experiences two busts-the commodity bust and the bust experienced during the boom years caused by the exodus of non-energy related businesses.

It’s hard to predict whether there will be another bust in Alberta, but if it does happen, there won’t be too many diversified employers available to pick up the slack.

Despite attempts by Alberta government and the city of Edmonton to attract high quality workforce, it will remain an uphill task. Initiatives such as this will help, but will only go so far. What this city needs is something substantial to retain the young professionals and/or cheaper cost of living to make up for its lack of ‘everything else.’

In other ‘non-news’, the current edition of Edmonton comfree is a sight to behold. It is perhaps the thickest comfree ever produced with over 186 page and each page has around 20 properties. With very tepid sales for this time of the year, I wonder if they'll need to produce a hardcover edition of comfree pretty soon!

Have a terrific weekend everyone.

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