Workforce 'loyalty' key factor in Dutch tech firm's decision to set up shop in Kanata, exec says

Networking equipment

A Dutch telecom equipment design house that recently set up shop in Kanata says the National Capital Region’s deep pool of relatively affordable talent ​– as well as its workers’ reputation for loyalty ​– tipped the scales in Ottawa’s favour when the firm was deciding where to establish its North American headquarters.

Based in the Netherlands city of Hilversum, AimValley works with the likes of Ciena, Cisco Systems, Ericsson, Nokia and other major telecom equipment manufacturers. 

While those companies are focused on developing 5G networks and other cutting-edge technology, AimValley tackles vexing problems such as making sure that aging network infrastructure in shopping malls, for example, is properly designed to handle the ever-growing flow of data to devices like ATMs and lottery terminals.

And although 5G networking and other next-level tech is “where the big money is,” AimValley has carved out a lucrative niche for itself, says Robert Fitts, the company’s new Ottawa-based director of North American business development.

Now at about 100 people worldwide, AimValley is getting ready to plant its flag firmly on this side of the Atlantic. 

"Kanata’s becoming the world centre for all of this stuff, and that’s where AimValley needs to be."

Its first North American hire was Fitts, who spent more than 15 years as director of corporate development in the Ottawa office of Quebec-based tech giant EXFO. Fitts ​– who first met AimValley CEO Theo Muys during his time at EXFO ​– says the Dutch company had a long look at Silicon Valley before choosing to base its North American operations in Ottawa instead.

The city’s reputation as a global networking technology research hub helped win over the European firm, he says. Ciena, Ericsson, Nokia and others all have major R&D centres in the National Capital Region, meaning all of AimValley’s biggest customers will be right there in its backyard. 

“Kanata’s becoming the world centre for all of this stuff, and that’s where AimValley needs to be,” explains Fitts. 

But that wasn’t the only determining factor, he adds. Ottawa’s clearly got talent, and that abundance of expertise tends to come cheaper here than in California, Fitts notes. 

In addition, those workers don’t tend to job-hop as much as their counterparts in the Valley, he adds, meaning a company can hire highly sought-after recruits and be reasonably confident they’ll be around for the long haul.

Recruiting efforts

“Kanata was not a slam dunk from day one,” Fitts says. “The loyalty factor probably paid off. Generally, Canadian technology workers stick around in the same company year after year, whereas in most other places, they’re very mercenary. That factor, more than anything, is what convinced AimValley to come here.”

The veteran tech exec, who also served as interim CEO of Kanata’s Centre of Excellence in Next Generation Networks in late 2017 and early 2018, is now casting his net for recruits. 

The company is holding off on leasing physical office space in Kanata during the pandemic and will operate remotely for now. Fitts says AimValley has no specific numbers in mind when it comes to hiring targets, explaining that the firm wants to see how the North American market evolves and build out its team accordingly.

“Over time, we’ll establish a fairly good footprint here in Kanata,” he says.