Telework centre to curb commutes in Barrie area

A telework centre for professionals in the Barrie, Ont. area has selected a supplier of network equipment and related services to equip the facility with IP telephony, wireless, virtual private networking, voicemail, unified messaging and productivity tools.

The agreement between SuiteWorks and Nortel Networks will require the industry titan to provide the technology for workers using leased office space in the complex that is scheduled to open this fall. The centre, based on a model of setting up telework facilities in so-called bedroom communities, will allow people in Barrie, a town some 100 km north of Toronto, to work in a high-tech environment near home rather than to commute long distances to other cities.

SuiteWorks president John Cameron said the deal represents the advancement of the teleworking option by not only providing clients with work space at cheaper costs than they would be expected to pay in the Greater Toronto Area, but also by offering greater bandwidth allotments, data security, IT support and online tools than they would be accustomed to in their home offices.

“”In the Barrie area, there are over 30,000 commuters that travel down (Highway) 400 each day — the Barrie area being from Orillia down to Newmarket,”” said Cameron, adding that Nortel will also lease office space in the complex for some of its staff. “”The vast numbers of people that commute don’t have access to another solution.””

Most of the leasing arrangements in the Barrie complex range from $400 to $1300 per workspace, per month for an 18-month term. Besides covering workspace, the fee also includes data connection, computer, paper, telephone, all long-distance calls in the GTA and access to all technology in the centre.

Art Van Donkelaar, the owner of two Mail Boxes Ect. franchises in Barrie, will be closing down one of his shops and re-opening it in the new telework centre. But while many of the potentially 120 workers — from possibly 30 companies — planning to work in the centre will be moving in to escape long commutes to the GTA, Donkelaar said his primary focus is to service the critical mass of workers in the complex who will need mail boxes, shipping services and printing.

“”They don’t even have to leave the building. They just come to my place, and we’ll package it and ship it out. It’ll be there the next day,”” he said. “”The other part of the business is they need colour copies and all those other things—and we’re there as well. And we have all of the services—we can provide them with fax machines and everything else.

“”The unique thing about Mail Boxes is that if you have parcels shipped up to SuiteWorks, we’re accessible 24 hours a day, and we will accept courier packages to any of the tenants that are in the building. And that would stop the UPS and FedEx driver from having to (go) to the front desk and stand there and wait for somebody to come down.””

Providing the support for the Nortel equipment, services and IT will be Compugen, an IT systems integrator headquartered in Richmond Hill, Ont. In addition to serving in a help-desk capacity in the complex, Compugen will also be leasing space for some of its employees.

“”They (SuiteWorks) were looking for a technology partner, or technology provider, somebody who could help them make a determination on what would be the best technology platform to support the varied requirements that they had at the telecommuting centre,”” explained Harry Zarek, president and CEO of Compugen. “”So we met with them, put a proposal in place and they responded positively.””

According to Cameron, similar facilities are in the works.

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