Montreal forms non-profit IT firm to promote local industry

Montreal’s IT community has followed in the footsteps of other cities to form an industry group that will promote local businesses and employment in the technology sector.

The initial launch of TechnoMontreal and its related Web site will offer marketing and networking activities for companies based in the city. A series of grants worth $200,000 from all three levels of government will be used to fund the not-for-profit’s activities over a three-year period. Initial goals include creating 15,000 to 25,000 technology-related jobs, increase exports by 30 per cent, and increase the number of people who work in private and university R&D by 25 per cent.

Michel Guay, chairman of the Information and Communications Technology Cluster of Greater Montréal and president of Wavesat, said the group represents 2,700 companies and close to 110,000 jobs. It contributes to the prosperity of the Montréal region, with exports totalling over $4 billion in 2004, he said.

“We feel in Montreal that with the (technology) bubble bursting people don’t believe too much in (the IT sector), but it’s very healthy,” he said. “It’s our mayor (Gérald Tremblay) who has really been pushing this idea of a cluster.”

Wavesat is nearly all export, Guay said, with about 90 per cent of its business happening outside of North America. Without a greater profile, he said, Montreal-based firms stand to lose out on a lot of opportunities with local enterprises.

“Somehow it’s easier to get credibility outside of Canada. In those countries, they don’t know how small we are, somehow we can get contracts easier,” he said.

Montreal is not alone. Toronto next month will be using its own local cluster to promote industry successes at Toronto Technology Week (TTW), the Web site for which has just been launched. Dave Forde, who is organizing TTW, said Montreal’s local industry is in a unique situation that doesn’t really compare with Toronto, however.

“Their government gives the industry more grants for things like that,” he said. “Here, you have to jump through hoops just to get a dollar.”

A bigger issue in Montreal is not funding but communication, Guay suggested. 

“We have every level of vertical market technology, we just don’t talk to each other,” he said.

One of TechnoMontreal’s first activities will be a two-day event aimed at telecommunications carriers that will also be used to encourage local university students to study science, Guay said.

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