Edmonton says its educated work force won over Dell

A smart Canadian labour force is as valuable to Dell as the $1.1 million in tax breaks a Edmonton used to convince the computing giant to open a contact centre there, a company spokeswoman said.

Dell will create 500 new jobs when

it opens the Edmonton contact centre, which will be completed by early 2006. Temporary office space has been secured to host the direct vendor this fall until the final centre is ready.

Edmonton will offer the tax credits over a five-year period and through a 20-year-lease on a parcel of land for a dollar per year.

The government first contacted Dell about the possibility of opening a contact centre in Canada through the Department of International Trade’s consulate in Dallas Tex., not far from Dell’s Round Rock headquarters. After the initial contact Alberta Economic Development Corp. made a proposal, which was followed up by Edmonton Economic Development Corp.

“”As soon as we made the pitch about Edmonton we got on the top of their list,”” said Edmonton Economic Development Corp. spokesman Jim Murphy. “”We continued to work with them — I think there were six site visits in total.””

A key selling point, Murphy said, were labour statistics that showed 167,000 full time, part time and particularly continuing education students who would potentially fill the ranks at Dell’s contact centre, which will support customers who have problems with PCs or other hardware equipment.

Dell already offers some Canadian customer support through its operation in Toronto but Edmonton will mark a significant expansion, according to spokeswoman Michelle Blood.

“”Our philosophy lately has been to build what we call hubs and spokes,”” she said. “”We have some hub locations and then we build smaller facility workforces so that we’re closer to our customer base and for our disaster recovery and business continuity issues.””

Edmonton owns the land on which the contact centre will be built and Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT) will assist Dell with training employees, Murphy said. NAIT will also help with the recruiting process.

Blood said it was too early to determine whether Dell would open more contact centres in other parts of Canada.

“”I would say right now we’re really going to focus on ramping up Edmonton and getting folks hired,”” she said. “”We’ll continue to monitor and evaluate our needs from there.””

Murphy said Dell’s move was a positive incentive for other firms to put roots in Canada.

“”We hope they’ll be part of that information and communications technology cluster,”” he said. “”I think it will do nothing but help spur that cluster here.””

Dell also maintains Canadian offices in Ottawa, Montreal, Halifax and Vancouver.

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