Cisco Systems’ Ottawa Development Centre (ODC) is rolling along with construction. The company recently announced the completion of Phase I of the project, as well as the commencement of Phase II.

There are a total of five phases in the project, and once completed, the facility in Kanata, Ont. will house approximately 2,400 employees. With the opening of the first phase, there are currently about 400 employees at the ODC.

Randy Baker, a recruiter for Cisco’s ODC, said that Phase I is nearly 105,000 square feet, and that Phase II, scheduled for completion in July 2001, will be about the same size. Phase III will be 157,000 square feet, and should be completed in December 2001.

The company is moving employees in as each building is completed, but there are factors affecting the time frames for the hiring of new employees, according to Baker.

“The dependencies are our ability to recruit that many people,” he said. “As well, continued market success, and how well our engineers we hire in here deliver on our program.”

He said that those factors will really tell how quickly the ODC is able to drive its project.

The facility will house employees responsible for engineering – building hardware and software that will be sold to ISPs, Baker explained.

“In essence, what’s happening here in Ottawa, all the teams share that common thread,” he said.

Baker noted that the people coming to work in the new facility will be new hires, and not people already employed by Cisco.

“We have approximately 400 people here now, so we have to add about 2,000 (people),” he said.

He noted that he hopes the company will recruit people from within the country, but added, “we will go wherever there are good people, period. We’ll bring people in from wherever is necessary.”

The existence of a Canadian “brain drain” is an ongoing debate, and Baker said Cisco’s presence in Ottawa “will hopefully do something to mitigate” that.

He added that the more places that set up shop in Canada, giving people a choice about where to work, might help to stem the tide of IT professionals to the U.S. He also said that he hasn’t been seeing as many people heading south of the border as he has seen people come up.

“And we’re not talking huge numbers,” he pointed out. “We’re only talking maybe a handful either way. But the net flow has been really positive for us. So is there a brain drain? I think that’s a good debate.”

Jeremy Depow, a senior analyst at The Yankee Group in Canada in Brockville, Ont., agreed with Baker’s observation.

“I think we tend to try to measure (the brain drain) in the wrong way,” Depow said.

While there are Canadians leaving, he said that we tend to forget that there are people coming to Canada from the Untied States and other countries.

“The question is: who in Canada is going? Well, it seems to be the higher-educated, higher-income earners, a lot of graduate students, IT professionals and those kinds of individuals.”

He said that even if Canada is losing people, it is still getting people back.

“It is indeed happening, but it’s not to the significance that people say,” he said. “I think the real question is…do we mind losing those Canadians, and why are they going?”

Depow noted there are a lot of potential reasons that people could be leaving for the U.S., including taxes and health care, but pointed out that job opportunity, especially in the area of IT, is also a drawing factor.