Through the private sector-led business development agency Nova Scotia Business Inc., the provincial government has given Bell Aliant’s IT company xwave a payroll rebate worth over $4.5 million that will result in 250 new IT jobs in defense, security, and aerospace.

The IT industry in Nova Scotia is booming, according to Nova Scotia Business Inc. (NSBI) president and CEO Stephen Lund, who said that they want to see Nova Scotia become the top IT employer in Canada over the next 20 years. The pay rebate is their primary tool for luring IT companies to the province.

“Every time we’ve done it, we’ve generated a return,” he said.

Lund foresees making $10 to $12 million per year off base taxes alone, and said that attracting IT businesses and professionals to the province is critical for sustaining high-paying jobs that yield money to the provincial government.

Many high-profile IT companies have been flocking to the province recently — NSBI has successfully enticed 50 companies over the last few years, including CGI, Keane, and Research in Motion, to become solution anchors in Nova Scotia.

This Maritime migration has resulted, said Lund, in Nova Scotia leading the country — and Canada, on the world stage — in IT “nearsourcing,” which keeps business from being outsourced overseas. This complements the already-strong community of IT professionals in a province whose ranks are continually bolstered by its many computer science graduates and those flocking back home due to an increase in IT jobs, he added.

This large IT talent pool was one of the key reasons that drew xwave to Nova Scotia in the first place, said Allen Dillon, its director of sales for defense, security, and aerospace systems. “There’s a good graduate base in engineers and computer scientists, along with retired military people like trained engineers, and those used to an operations environment,” said Dillon.

The military’s presence in Nova Scotia was another big draw for xwave (Lund said that 44 per cent of Canada’s military assets are in Nova Scotia). “This is a part of an element of our business vertical that we’ve been in for over 25 years now,” Dillon said. While xwave obviously hasn’t been a military contractor for a generation, the defense and aerospace systems companies they acquired in 2000 have.

“The military heritage and culture is very accepted here, and obviously they’d be a significant client,” he said.

Xwave landed the 20-year, $220-million Maritime Helicopter Project contract a year and a half ago that will see it providing software development and support for the CH148 Cyclones.

While many of the job descriptions have yet to be crafted, 10 to 20 per cent of the 250 jobs created will focus on the Maritime Helicopter Project, while others will work on a presently-top-secret joint project with the U.S. Department of Defense and the U.K.’s Ministry of Defense, and, if the bid is successful, others will work on a joint support ship-related project.

Running a high-powered military helicopter might seem a far cry from the telecommunications operations of xwave’s parent company, Bell Aliant, but Dillon said that this partnership is right in line with the core part of Bell Aliant’s strategy.

“The days of wondering how xwave works with Aliant’s telecommunications are long over,” he said. For a long time it was thought that Aliant might pull up its stakes out of the IT business and re-focus on purely telecommunications, but Dillon insisted that projects like these are both enriching Bell Aliant’s offerings, and increasing its profile and diversifying their interests.

Xwave’s vertical expertise, in everything from call centres, to health care, to public safety and justice, to enterprise solutions, will keep Bell Aliant’s fingers in many pies, according to Dillon. It also is a sort of one-stop-shop for businesses looking for both telecommunications and IT-enriched options. Dillon said, “IT as a whole is driving tremendous change in industry, and especially telecommunications, such as moving to IP, including IP telephony, portals, and network architecture. xwave can offer full integrated capabilities to enterprise in particular.”

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