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WESTERN CANADA
From Site Selection magazine, January 2023
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In a Region Known for Energy Resources, Tech Is Tomorrow’s Fuel

WESTERN CANADA
Peace Bridge over the Bow River in Calgary.
Image by GettyImages

by Adam Bruns
T

hese days, seeing “cryptocurrency” and “custody” in the same sentence does not bode well.

Unless you’re a Calgary fintech company with the ingenious name of Brane Trust.

A subsidiary of Brane Inc., Brane Trust is a trust company regulated by the Government of Alberta for the purpose of digital asset custody. The company, which is expanding into a Calgary headquarters with 100 jobs, was quick on the draw in December when the Canadian Securities Administrators said its member regulators will consider enforcement action to bring certain crypto trading platforms into compliance with Canadian securities law.

“In the wake of the FTX collapse, protecting Canadian investors from high-risk crypto platforms has never been more urgent,” said Matt Pierce, interim president of Brane Trust, in a December 15 release. “With this announcement, regulators have placed a spotlight on the importance of regulated digital asset custody to keep investor assets safe — and that’s exactly the challenge that Brane is built to solve.”

Founded in 2017, Brane Inc. has been named one of Canada’s 10 Best and Brightest Companies by Canadian Business magazine. It’s a bright spot in Calgary to be sure, as it moves symbolically into a former Bank of Montreal building downtown. That building’s legacy means it’s “equipped with high-security vault infrastructure — enabling Brane Trust, following regulatory approval, to offer state-of-the-art, insured cold storage solutions for digital assets including Bitcoin, Ethereum, and NFTs,” Brane said last April when the lease was announced.

“The Brane team is pleased to be investing in downtown Calgary, and we look forward to contributing to Alberta’s economic momentum as an innovative, sustainable enterprise,” said Adam Miron, interim CEO of Brane Inc. and chairperson for both Brane and Brane Trust’s boards of directors. “With the opportunities of Web3 and digital assets growing rapidly, we’re proud to have Brane Trust based in Calgary as we help secure the world’s transition to blockchain.”

Western Canada BG-one

Institutional and business leaders from Alberta and British Columbia celebrate the launch of Rogers Communications’ THINKLab in downtown Calgary.

Photo courtesy of Rogers

“Brane’s decision to establish this head office in Calgary is a testament to the forward-looking regulatory environment that Alberta is developing to attract innovative financial businesses and empower them to scale,” said Alberta Minister of Treasury Board and Finance the Hon. Travis Toews.

Think, People

As it happens, April was not the cruelest month by a long shot for the Alberta tech scene, as it also brought the news that Rogers Communications, following the close of its proposed merger with Shaw Communications, was announcing a blue-ribbon advisory council to oversee a National Centre of Technology and Engineering Excellence to be established in the heart of Calgary but represent innovation across both Alberta and British Columbia.

“The Rogers THINKLab will bring together leaders from academic institutions, developers, and research partners that will foster made-in-Canada technology solutions to benefit consumers and businesses, while fueling Canadian competitiveness,” the 62-year-old communications giant announced. Advisory council members include representatives of the University of Calgary, Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (based in Edmonton but with a Calgary branch), the University of British Columbia, BCNET, Selkirk College and the British Columbia Institute of Technology.

Rogers said 500 skilled technology roles will join Rogers Technology employees nationwide “and contribute to the company’s mandate to create business opportunities through technology and to grow Canada’s talent pipeline,” with an emphasis on areas including 5G, digital & cloud, data analytics, machine learning, artificial intelligence, IoT and cybersecurity.

“As the tech sector grows in Edmonton, Calgary and across Western Canada, we need skilled talent to drive business and our economy,” said Laura Jo Gunter, NAIT president and CEO. THINKLab’s creation of 500 technology jobs is in perfect alignment with NAIT’s mission to graduate highly skilled talent through a polytechnic education.”

“Rogers’ THINKLab is a vote of confidence in Alberta and showcases our strengths as an innovative province,” said Alberta Premier Jason Kenney. “These 500 new engineering and IT jobs will build on our momentum as a global destination for investment and jobs in our flourishing technology sector.”

Bright Spots in AB and BC

Signs of that flourishing are everywhere you look. In November 2021, Amazon Web Services committed to invest C$4.3 billion by 2037 in a new cloud computing operation in Calgary, Alberta, creating more than 950 jobs.

Institutional and business leaders from Alberta and British Columbia celebrate the launch of Rogers Communications’ THINKLab in downtown Calgary.     Photo courtesy of Rogers

“AWS has been helping Canadian organizations build in the cloud since 2006,” said AWS Canada GM Eric Gales. “Today, we have tens of thousands of customers in Canada. This newly announced Region in Calgary will help even more developers, startups, and enterprises, as well as government, education, and nonprofit organizations, to run their applications and serve end users from data centers located in Canada.”

In October, another fintech company, Ireland-based Global Shares, recently acquired by J.P. Morgan, announced it would hire 100 new employees within the next three years at what will be its largest office in North America in Calgary.

It will be the company’s third North American office and first in Canada. “After several trial office openings in other North American cities, Global Shares recognized Calgary as an innovation hub for new and upcoming talent in technology,” said a release from Invest Alberta, which, after connecting with the company during a trade mission to Ireland in March 2022, helped the company secure real estate, and develop employee attraction and retention strategies, and, in collaboration with the Irish Alberta Trade Association and Enterprise Ireland, facilitated the company’s move to Alberta.

“The strong talent pool, direct air service, access to markets and a burgeoning fintech sector made Calgary a logical choice for Global Shares,” said Laureen Regan, president of the Ireland Alberta Trade Association.

“The city has so many similarities with Global Shares — from its entrepreneurial spirit, and diverse, skilled, friendly workforce, to being front runners in digital transformation,” said Global Shares HR Director Stephen Tabb. “The city’s wide range of outdoor leisure and recreational activities were also important factors in our decision to invest in Calgary, as it offers such an attractive work life balance. Calgary ticks all our boxes, and we are delighted to welcome our new team onboard.”

Spending on digital transformation in Alberta is expected to surpass C$20 billion in the next two years, a forecast of 13% year-over-year growth. 

In June 2022 — the same month that saw IBM Canada announce a new Client Innovation Centre that will eventually employ 250 tech specialists — India-based IT solutions provider Mphasis, after announcing a year earlier its intention to invest in the province, opened a new Canadian delivery center in First Tower in downtown Calgary, with plans to create 1,000 technology jobs over two years in Alberta. Invest Alberta said it worked closely with Mphasis to provide support on immigration, business development, talent recruitment, real estate, missions and funding opportunities.

“Calgary is attracting growing attention as a thriving technology ecosystem,” said Nitin Rakesh, CEO and managing director at Mphasis, “and the launch of our new center reinforces Mphasis’ commitment to investing in this market, where we see considerable growth potential.”

The Game of Growth in Metro Vancouver

Electronic Arts Canada has seen growth potential in the country for some time, chiefly at its flagship studio in the Vancouver-area municipality of Burnaby. Today the company is also growing at the former headquarters of outdoor equipment retailer MEC in the city’s new False Creek Flats area, one of just a handful of buildings in B.C. to achieve LEED Platinum certification. Those attributes, and the multiple amenities offered in the immediate area, “align well with EA’s commitments to the Environment as well as People & Culture,” said the company in summer 2021. The site is close to the Centre for Digital Media and Vancouver Community College.

“We’re excited to have this great new footprint, with amazing amenities for our team, to add to our flagship Burnaby studio as we continue to invest in our teams and leadership in the market,” said EA Canada Vice President of Strategy, Operations and Finance Jon Lutz. “The support to health and wellness that are present at the new location not only helps EA attract and retain great talent, but it provides staff with an environment in which they can do their best work.”

The EA player network grew to more than 600 million active accounts at the end of Q2 2022. The company’s FIFA 23 game was the most successful launch in franchise history with more than 10.3 million players within the first week.

The company is still growing in Burnaby too: Construction began in early 2022 on two new buildings in the city’s Discovery Park area, near the British Columbia Institute of Technology. EA’s occupancy of one of them (which has a capacity for 600 employees) will take its overall Canadian HQ presence from 400,000 sq. ft. to 580,000 sq. ft.

Adam Bruns
Editor in Chief of Site Selection magazine

Adam Bruns

Adam Bruns is editor in chief and head of publications for Site Selection, and before that has served as managing editor beginning in February 2002. In the course of reporting hundreds of stories for Site Selection, Adam has visited companies and communities around the globe. A St. Louis native who grew up in the Kansas City suburbs, Adam is a 1986 alumnus of Knox College, and resided in Chicago; Midcoast Maine; Savannah, Georgia; and Lexington, Kentucky, before settling in the Greater Atlanta community of Peachtree Corners, where he lives with his wife and daughter.

     



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