Friday, April 11, 2008

EDS growth equals 1,000 jobs

IT firm expands, cites biz climate

Global technology giant EDS has chosen Winnipeg as the location for its new high-tech service centre, which it said will create 1,000 new jobs over the next five years.

The Texas-based company will spend $18 million to refurbish a 100,000-square-foot Inkster Industrial Park building whose former tenants have included other IT companies such as Nortel.

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EDS Canada president Frank Hart announced the Winnipeg office expansion.

EDS Canada president Frank Hart said the $20-billion-a-year company selected Winnipeg to build a new service centre for a number of reasons, not least because it's had a presence here for more than 30 years.

The company already has about 300 employees in Winnipeg, with about 100 of them doing work for national and international clients. Winnipeg is one of EDS's top centres around the world with local technology experts doing work here for international clients.

One of its biggest local customers is the Manitoba government for whom EDS operates as a de facto information technology department, providing desktop support for government departments and a full range of software support.

EDS is also in the running for a massive business processing out-sourcing contract with the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority.

Hart said EDS has pioneered some of the government service work in Manitoba that it now offers to several U.S. states and governments around the world.

The new Manitoba centre will provide a variety of services to national and international customers including hardware and software support, financial services, back-office customer support and document processing and accounting and administrative services.

Company officials said the new Winnipeg shop will not do work for existing Manitoba customers.

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The plan is to have 50 to 100 employees in the new Mountain Avenue centre by August, and about 250 over the next 12 months. Hart said he believes it will take less than five years for the centre to get up to 1,000 jobs.

The company is putting on a job fair in the next couple of weeks, and is already hiring for the $30,000-plus jobs.

Premier Gary Doer, who was on hand for the EDS announcement, said the province will commit $3 million in training assistance.

Doer said the fact his government is a client of EDS had nothing to do with the company selecting Winnipeg.

"EDS has good relationships with other customers and they are free to decide where the best place is for them to make an investment," he said. "We're happy they did it here."

Hart said there were more attractive incentive packages offered by other jurisdictions, but the overall environment in Manitoba made the difference.

"The labour force in Manitoba is highly skilled, very knowledgeable and extremely committed to quality work," Hart said.

The new centre -- which is estimated to contribute about $440 million to the provincial economy including $50 million in taxes ¬ -- will be unique for EDS in that the company will run a number of different functions for many different customers out of the same centre.

Its beefed-up local workforce will give this city much more significance to EDS's Canadian operations.

"This will put Winnipeg on the EDS map," said Hal Ryckman, executive vice-president of EDS Canada's western Canadian division.

For Stuart Duncan, CEO of Destination Winnipeg, it is a feather in the city's cap.

"This is a Fortune 100 company," Duncan said. "It's a great signal to the community that a company like EDS would grow here."

Duncan said the information and communications technology sector in Manitoba is growing, already employing about 12,000 people in the city, and is expected to continue to grow for the next 10 years.

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