Why BlackBerry Laying Off 4,000 Canadians Might Actually be Good for Our Economy

Last month BlackBerry confirmed plans to lay off a staggering 4,500 employees worldwide, most of them in Canada, including its headquarters in Waterloo.

The 45% workforce reduction means BlackBerry will bleed staff almost weekly for up to nine months, which is devastating on many levels for the company's employees. But is it really alldoom and gloom?

For some, absolutely. Let's be clear: people are losing jobs and not all of them will bounce back immediately. But there's still a very bright silver lining not to be ignored here.

"There are a lot of non-tech firms in Kitchener and Waterloo that are looking for talent," Iain Klugman, the chief executive officer of Communitech in Waterloo, is quoted as saying in Profit Magazine. "The global experience that exists in BlackBerry could be very beneficial to them, especially those in industries that tend to be forgotten about in the region, such as education and financial services."

"People are going to be coming out of BlackBerry with a lot of specialized expertise," Klugman added. "They could add a lot of value of SMEs outside of the tech sector."

This optimism is shared outside of Waterloo, too.

"A sale could be the start of a new BlackBerry cluster," noted John Reid, the president and CEO of the CATA Alliance in Ottawa, in Profit Magazine. "Say the company decides to be the world's best in messaging. It will be significant supplementary technologies to support that, and it's likely it will look to the local ecosystem—which it has in the Waterloo region, with the University of Waterloo, the supplier base and the availability of Generation Y leaders—to supply it."

In fact, BlackBerry's troubles could having lasting effects on all of Canada—good ones.

"The most important issue for the Canadian economy is that we need more anchor tenants," argues Mike McDerment, a cofounder of Toronto-based FreshBooks, in Profit Magazine. "Our single anchor tenant was BlackBerry; now, we need many of them."

And McDerment believes this will become possible following the dismantling of BlackBerry's workforce.

"When you're scaling the business, it's hard to find managers and leaders with deep operational strengths and excellence," he says. "The workforce doing that at BlackBerry will soon be available to help build other anchor tenants. And that's going to change our economy."

Photo: Geoff Robins, Canadian Press

Waterloo, Ontario, Canada

Research In Motion (RIM), a global leader in wireless innovation, revolutionized the mobile industry with the introduction of the BlackBerry solution in 1999. Since then, BlackBerry products and services have continued to change the way millions of people around the world stay connected. With the launch of BlackBerry 10, we have re-designed, re-engineered and re-invented BlackBerry. Not only... more

Kitchener, Ontario, Canada

Founded by a group of entrepreneurs in 1997, Communitech is an industry-led innovation centre in Waterloo Region, supporting a tech cluster of nearly 1,000 companies. Communitech supports tech companies at all stages of their growth and development – from startups to rapidly growing mid-sized companies and large global players. A member of the Ontario Network of Entrepreneurs, Communitech... more

Toronto, Ontario, Canada

In 2003, Mike McDerment, co-founder and CEO of FreshBooks, accidently saved over an invoice, snapped and decided to create a better way to manage his books and bill clients. Since then, FreshBooks has emerged as the #1 cloud accounting specialist for small business owners by helping more than 5 million people track time, organize expenses and invoice clients in the cloud. Known for... more

Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance (CATA)
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

The Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance grows the revenues of its 28,000 members by creating a collaborative edge -- a chain of expanding value that ripples across Canada’s Innovators, Commercializers, Users, and Professionals. The largest high-tech association in Canada, CATAAlliance matches businesses with opportunities across almost every sector, so that we can all do business together.... more

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Knowlton Thomas

Knowlton Thomas

Knowlton is the managing editor of Techvibes and author of Tempest Bound. Based in Vancouver, Knowlton has been published in national publications and has also appeared on television and radio. Previously he was an editor for New Westminster weekly The Other Press and served on its board of directors. When not working, Knowlton enjoys hiking, tennis, and martial arts. more

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