Vancouvers Value

By Deb Perelman  |  Posted 2007-07-12 Print this article Print

Although Microsoft claims it chose Vancouver for its proximity (less than 150 miles from its Redmond headquarters), it is likely that mileage wasnt the only factor in its choice of the British Columbia hot spot. Not only is Vancouver considered one of the most beautiful cities in Canada, a recent report ranked it the No. 1 international city in quality of life.
Yet, salaries are said to lag in Vancouver—software engineers make less there than they do in Toronto and Ottawa, according to PayScale—a detail that is not likely lost on Microsoft.
While Microsoft doesnt deny that the Vancouver facility will help it get around the difficulties of hiring skilled foreign workers in the United States, it insists that the Vancouver facility would have be opened with or without the recent failure of the immigration reform bill. "While opening an office in the Vancouver area does help the company address a challenge in the U.S. regarding hiring highly qualified people—many of whom are graduating from schools and universities in the U.S.—who cannot acquire the necessary documentation to work in the U.S., its important to note the Microsoft would be opening this center in the Vancouver area even if that situation did not exist," Microsoft spokesperson told eWEEK. "The Vancouver facility is part of Microsofts ongoing expansion plans, including recently announced additions in Boston; Bellevue, Wash.; and Fargo, N.D." Will Others Follow? In the face of mounting difficulties bringing skilled foreigners into the country for work, it is not surprising that Microsoft—which has actively and unsuccessfully lobbied for an increase in H-1Bs for years—has chosen to expand shop to the North, said Charles King, an analyst with Pund-IT Research, in Hayward, Calif. "Businesses have a right and a requirement to run businesses in the best fiduciary interests of their shareholders, and if Microsoft needs a fixed number of software engineers to adequately support its business goals, its going to get them somewhere," said King. Pointer Immigrants fuel the tech boom. Click here to read more. If anything, King argued, nearshoring, as opposed to offshoring, seems to be a step back from the earlier idea that technology could render geography irrelevant. A Canadian nearshoring trend may be more about the failure of companies to meet their business goals in further-flung offshoring locations than the difficulties bringing skilled workers onshore. "Theres a certain irony about the benefits of globalization and how technology is supposed to allow companies to work from remote locations through the glory of the Internet and mobile connectivity if Microsoft is choosing to move its development to a nearby location," King said. "I understand the convenience of having a development center so close to company headquarters, but it seems to contradict the hypothetical benefits of the new technology." Yet, whether Microsoft is laying a path that other large technology employers will soon follow the company down remains to be seen. "The U.S. goes through periods of xenophobia that tend to go along with times of economic uncertainty, and were in one of those times. Canada has a more inclusive approach to immigration, and you dont see the kind of base, very local resistance to inviting folks in," said King. "Canada has a very open immigration policy, especially for immigrants from Asia," he said. "Vancouver has an especially huge Asian population, and Microsoft is in a good geographical position to take advantage of this. As the pendulum swings backward, well see more H-1B visas being issued. But I dont think these companies have the time or patience to wait and see how long it takes." Check out eWEEK.coms Careers Center for the latest news, analysis and commentary on careers for IT professionals.


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