Included in that sum is a $5-million provincial grant, awarded on the condition that the company preserve 350 “highly skilled” jobs, according to Avaya Canada president Ross Pellizzari. The company said it has more than 750 employees in Ontario.
Mr. Pellizzari said the agreement with Queen’s Park is further proof the company intends to stay in Ottawa, even though it will be forced to pack up and leave the former Nortel campus in two years time.
“We’re in good shape, we’re well staffed and we’re building products,” said Mr. Pellizzari in an interview Monday at the company’s west-end facilities.
“We’re making plans to stay in the area ... We’ve seen (that) the skilled labour here is world-class.”
New Jersey-based Avaya finalized its US$915-million acquisition of Nortel Networks’ enterprise solutions division just over a year ago. Its Ottawa facilities are primarily focused on unified communications solutions, which combine voice, video and data technologies into a single application.
Customer spending on video tools is climbing as companies merge their desktop communication devices to save money, said Mr. Pellizzari, adding contact centres are a growing market for Avaya.
“(Our) customers are looking at how they can consolidate, reduce their expense and serve their customers better,” he said.
Avaya said it has slightly more than 200 Belleville-based employees and approximately 375 workers in Ottawa, where it is believed to occupy about 100,000 square feet at the former Nortel campus, now named Carling Place.
That gives it the smallest local footprint among the four major buyers of Nortel’s business units, which also includes Ciena, Ericsson and Genband.
Nortel announced in October that it was selling its sprawling 2.35-million-square-foot facility, located at Moodie Drive and Carling Avenue in the Greenbelt, to the federal government for $208 million. The deal was expected to close by the end of the year.
Avaya and Ericsson have separate leases expiring in roughly two years. The head of Ericsson Canada said last month he’d like his company to remain at Carling Place, but Public Works is sending signals that it wants the companies out.
Mr. Pellizzari said he has not spoken to the federal government about Avaya’s future at the property and is surveying the city’s commercial real estate market.
“We have some real estate people looking where we’re going to put (our employees). It’s a big opportunity for us and the area. We need to figure out where we’re going to relocate people over the next couple of years.”
He said it was premature to say whether Avaya would be able to find space inside an existing facility or would have to construct a new building.
Avaya’s announced intention to stay in Ottawa is no doubt welcome news for the city’s economy. Nevertheless, the company is a symbol to some of Ottawa’s declining influence in the high-tech world as Nortel joins the likes of Cognos and JDS-Uniphase as industry leaders that at one point had key decision-makers stationed in Canada’s capital.
But far from being an isolated R&D outpost, Ottawa is home to “leaders” within Avaya who oversee how product lines are managed, packaged and brought to market, said the company’s top local official.
Senior director Roy MacLean – formerly Nortel’s vice-president of enterprise operations and service – said the Ottawa operation has “control and sway” within the company.
“Our influence extends well beyond our number of employees ... and our immediate borders,” he said.