You could say they rolled out the red and white carpet for the prime minister in California.
The cloud-based customer management platform announced a $2 billion, five-year investment on Thursday that’s designed to “fuel the growth of its Canadian business,” according a company press release.
It’s unclear if the investment will add to the already 1,300 Canadians who are already employed by Salesforce in Canada.
At a press conference later Thursday Trudeau noted Salesforce would add “thousands of Canadian jobs” but could not be more specific.
Trudeau also visited the offices of Silicon Valley technology company AppDirect, which announced it will create at least 300 jobs in Canada within the next five years as part of a global growth strategy. It has engineering offices in Montreal and Calgary and plans to launch a sales office in Toronto.
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The announcements came in the middle of the prime minister’s trade mission to the U.S., where he is trying to convince American firms to come north, or at least partner with already established technology companies in Canada.
It’s a little bit of outreach and a lot of education on the benefits of Canada and the fact that we have a vibrant and booming tech sector.
Case in point: Gianfranco Filice, a sophomore who’s studying economics at Stanford University. Filice is two years away from graduation and will likely stay in Silicon Valley. While he’s heard of Canada’s booming tech sector, he says our country is doing a poor job of marketing itself as a technology hub.
“These companies are not coming to career fairs … I’ve heard of Waterloo, but not in the context of being a tech hub,” Filice told Global News.
Having grown up in the valley, Filice expects to stay here instead of moving north but he is the type of talent Canada’s tech sector desperately needs.
According to Invest Ottawa, up to nine thousand jobs need to be filled in the next three years to keep up with the pace of growth.
“We need to get ahead of the talent shortage that we’ve got,” said Mike Tremblay, CEO of Invest Ottawa. “Our tech sector is fully sold-out at this moment so we’re constantly battling for global resources that we can attract back to Ottawa.”
Tremblay admits attracting talent away from Silicon Valley is difficult, so he’s happy that part of Trudeau’s pitch is all about partnerships.
“We have resources that can actually help them to achieve even bigger goals by tapping into the capability that’s here,” said Tremblay.
A ‘crown jewel’ in Kanata
Silicon Valley companies already operating in Canada attest to the value of partnering north of the border. California-based Infinera opened an office in the Ottawa suburb of Kanata several years ago. It’s now a “crown jewel” for the global company, according to Sonja Wilkerson, Infinera’s senior vice-president of human resources.
“Our touch in Ottawa has allowed us and enabled us to accelerate innovation in a way we could not have done otherwise,” said Wilkerson. “The level of capability [in Kanata] is beyond impressive.”
She said she imagines the number of partnerships will grow in the future.
“Companies are smart. They go where the talent is.”
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Another part of Trudeau’s pitch is to focus on Canada’s inclusiveness as the Trump administration looks to close borders and limit immigration.
“One of Canada’s strengths has been our consistent embrace of an open tolerance society, being willing to bring in a talent from around the world,” said Sean Mullin, the executive director of the Brookfield Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Ryerson University.
Mullin noted that Canada’s tech sector has been a large contributor to the country’s economic growth, with 860,000 jobs in 2015 making up 7.1 per cent of Canada’s gross domestic product. That could continue to grow as graduates look for places to put down roots.
“If Canada … builds upon this reputation as a globally open, cosmopolitan society, and layered upon that the great standards of living we have here that, I think, is an ace in the hole for us.”
*With a file from the Canadian Press