DND is currently scattered in dozens of buildings across Ottawa and Gatineau, but will largely consolidate its operations in the former Nortel campus on Carling Avenue later this decade.
In December 2010, Public Works bought the former Nortel campus in Kanata for $208 million and confirmed that it would be housing a large part of DND in the 2.35-million-square foot campus.
“Our government's decision to house a large portion of the capital region’s defence community at one location is a major step forward in strengthening the entire defence team while reducing costs, strengthening departmental security and helping us to work more effectively and efficiently,” Defence Minister Peter MacKay said in a statement at the time.
Government officials are saying little about the department’s plans, beyond stating that it intends to keep its downtown headquarters as well as occupying a new office building under construction at 455 de la Carrière Blvd. in Gatineau.
That has some companies questioning if their government clients will eventually be at the other side of the National Capital Region, making it more difficult to meet face to face or to complete on-site work.
“The tricky part is so far there is not a clear indication of when DND is going to make the move, and who individually or what groups are going to be seated out there,” said Darren Fleming, a managing principal at brokerage firm Cresa Ottawa.
Location is imperative to keep contact between suppliers and the government, he added.
“Even though everything is done publicly and tendered, there are still reasons to meet. Coffee, lunch, attend seminars, and so on, which can all be accommodated more easily if your location is physically closer to your customer,” he added.
There’s rarely any explicit mention of location in government tender documents, beyond a wide region, but proximity can also be important when it comes to reviewing technical documents in person or conducting business under stringent security requirements that require on-site visits.
That’s according to Marion Soublière, an Ottawa-based independent contractor who assists individuals and companies with preparing tender bids for the federal government.
“Usually it’s because they want the contractors to meet with them, (so) they want them in the region,” she said.
However, she notes it depends on the service – technical suppliers often need to go on-site to finish the job, but a softer service such as translation can often be done from outside of the city.
Promaxis Systems Inc. sees 50 per cent of its revenues from business with DND doing logistics support for weapons manufacturing and life-cycle support. At points during the company’s 41-year history, DND made up a 90-per-cent share.
With Promaxis on St. Laurent Boulevard in the Urbandale area, the company is about a 20-minute drive from DND’s headquarters downtown.
There are certain times when that proximity matters, said president Andy Knight.
“Primarily, if the customer is based in the national capital, yes. They want people close by a lot of the time,” Mr. Knight said.
While he said Promaxis has no plans to move its offices, since daily trips to department offices are typically unnecessary, Mr. Knight said on-site visits are part of doing business with the federal government.
“We have to go there to read support documentation, and a lot of that documentation can’t be removed from government premises. It is important to be physically there (in that case).”