Contact Center Boom Continues in Canada

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The Canadian contact center industry continued to grow over the past five quarters despite threat of war and international economic instability, consulting service Site Selection Canada said in a report last week.


During the 15 months ended March 31, more than 26,000 new jobs were added to the contact industry in Canada, and 81 centers were built or expanded, the report said.


Nearly 80 percent of the growth came from new investments by U.S. companies. The province of Ontario, home to Canada's financial heart in Toronto, easily led with 11,795 new contact center jobs in the period and 38 center openings and expansions.


Much of the growth in the 15 months resulted from expansion plans that were in the pipeline for several months, said Steve Demmings, president of Site Selection Canada, Winnipeg, Manitoba. However, the contact center industry in Canada continues to grow at 15 percent to 20 percent yearly in terms of jobs and shows no signs of slowing.


U.S. companies began moving to Canada about five years ago to exploit the nation's labor pool during the dot-com explosion, when unemployment in the United States reached 35-year lows. More recently, U.S. firms seek to take advantage of the favorable exchange rate -- they can pay expenses in Canadian dollars and receive revenue in U.S. dollars -- and see Canada as an alternative to offshore contact centers, Demmings said.


The debate between proponents of offshore sites -- in nations such as India -- and so-called near-shore locations such as Canada has shifted to the near-shore side because of growing concerns about global security, he said.


The province closest in job growth to Ontario was Quebec, which saw more than 3,900 new jobs in the period. However, with two major call center expansions already this year, British Columbia is matching Ontario's growth pace, with each province gaining about 1,800 contact center jobs in the first quarter.


Online auction site eBay opened an 800-employee center in Vancouver, while teleservices agency West Corp. launched an 800-employee call center in Saanich, British Columbia, according to the report.


Demmings said he expected Quebec to grow into a focus for contact center growth. Also, Nova Scotia recently scored a win as TeleTech announced three expansions in the province last month, he said.


British Columbia's recent growth may reflect a change of government in the province about a year ago that installed business-friendly leadership, Demmings said. Upcoming provincial elections throughout Canada could have a similar effect.


"The changing government landscape is going to have a dramatic impact on driving business north," he said.


The Canadian federal government also has noted the contact center industry's contribution to the nation's strong economy, Demmings said. The government is expected to form a Canadian customer contact industry council within a few months.


Other teleservices agencies to make call center investments in Canada in 2003 include Convergys, with a new facility in Red Deer, Alberta; TeleTech, with expansions to its Orillia and Sarnia call centers in Ontario; RMH, expanding its site in Sault St. Marie, Ontario; and StarTek, opening a new center in Regina, Saskatchewan.


More statistics from the report are available at siteselectioncanada.com.


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