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Tough times for Ottawa’s tech sector

The March decline in jobs continues a trend that has gone on forseveral months, yet overall tech still fares better than most sectors.

The March decline in jobs continues a trend that has gone on for several months, yet overall tech still fares better than most sectors. The latest to point that out is the Branham 300, an annual listing of the top tech firms in Canada.

The companies are ranked by gross revenue and the list, now in its 16th year, is put together by Ottawa-based Branham Group. CEO and founder Wayne Gudbranson says total revenues to the end of December 2008 were up 18 per cent from a year ago — not too bad for a sector many are convinced is dying. Since then, we’ve had a steady diet of layoffs plus the headline-grabbing bankruptcy protection process of Nortel.

The numbers also show Ottawa was the only major Canadian tech centre to see a drop in revenues last year — a 19 per cent drop due almost entirely to Cognos being bought up by IBM. If Cognos had not been purchased, Ottawa’s growth last year would have been over 25 per cent, one of the best in Canada behind Waterloo. Now this week, there’s word of Entrust of Ottawa being sold. Waterloo is outpacing the nation with 119 per cent revenue growth, thanks to the presence of RIM and Open Text. Halifax and Calgary are the next hot spots with revenue growth of 26 and 24 per cent respectively.

How does Ottawa shape up for the future? Gudbranson says its “clearly good news with 16 per cent of the up-and-comers category and 20 per cent of the ‘Next 50’ based in Ottawa.” That includes firms like In-Touch, Non-Linear Creations, Enablence, DNA 13, BioNiq, Versature, and Devshop. There is still a heavy reliance on telecom and software here but also the realization that Ottawa must further diversify its tech base if it hopes to come out of the economic slump ready to expand.

What’s the latest on the decline? Almost 13 per cent of global business leaders questioned three weeks ago said the economy was recovering, almost double the number from February. The Korn-Ferry Institute notes its survey also shows 67 per cent of the execs said the global economy is in a severe recession.

Website of the week:
www.vancouver2010.com, the official site of the Winter Olympics in Vancouver — the event is now just 10 months away.

This Sunday one of the stories on Tech Now will be a look at choosing the sex of your unborn baby.

– Be sure to watch Tech Now this Sunday as part of the CTV NEWS at 6 p.m.; technow@ctv.ca.

 
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