IBM's data processing centre is coming to Barrie as part of a national research and development project.
“This shows we can compete on any stage to attract top-drawer companies,” said Mayor Jeff Lehman.
The $210-million public/private investment initiative will use cloud computing systems to process data in research areas with commercial opportunities – including infrastructure, resource management and neuroscience.
There will be partnerships with local businesses looking to develop new systems for managing traffic, distributing food, electricity and treating neurological disorders.
“It's the technology we're going to see in cities across the world for years to come,” said Barrie MP Patrick Brown.
This initiative involves the Canadian and Ontario governments, IBM, the University of Toronto, Western University, McMaster University, Queen's University, the University of Ottawa, the University of Ontario Institute of Technology and the University of Waterloo.
Lehman said IBM's decision to choose Barrie shows the city's competitive advantages, and that Barrie has the land, proper zoning and infrastructure for a project of this scope.
“We hear about the need for Canada's economy to be more productive and focus more on innovation,”
“There's a need for government and the private sector to work together to grow our economy. This is exactly what they are talking about. This is a true partnership.”
Ottawa is investing as much as $20 million in this project, the Ontario government $15 million, and IBM the remainder.
Construction of the 109,000-square-
“Ten, even five years ago, there was a sense of pessimism that Barrie could win these jobs,” said Brown. “We have turned a corner. These are high-paying, highly skilled jobs that are going in our back yard.
“These are not job transfers. These are new jobs. I think in Barrie we have an educated, talented workforce that can fill these jobs.”
Lehman said it's not just the direct jobs this project will create, but the spinoffs as well, that are important.
Brown said the building will include a data centre and a 'node' for the supercomputer that IBM is building. The three sites for the IBM supercomputer 'agile & cloud' computing infrastructure will be Barrie, Toronto and London.
Barrie's project will generate $1.6 million in development charges for the city, and annual property tax revenue as well – although the exact figure will be unknown until the land is assessed.
Hany Kirolos, Barrie's economic development director, said IBM chose Barrie for a number of reasons – including the reliability of hydro and water here.
“We competed against 15 other cities, were short-listed and continued to aggressively highlight Barrie's many benefits to IBM,” he said.
“The fact that IBM chose Barrie over many other cities demonstrates to the global economy all Barrie has to offer and our competitive advantage,” Lehman said. “We also have the proven ability to help grow new sectors of the economy, with two major, branded data-processing centres already established here in Barrie.”
Bank of Montreal (BMO) already has a large data centre, with a dual computer centre, with the capacity to employ about 600 people, in the Caplan Avenue/Veteran’
TD Bank Group plans to open a new $85-million technology and operations centre on the east side of Veteran’s Drive, south of Mapleview Drive West. The one-storey, 180,000-square-
IBM's plans for Barrie have been in the works since last spring, when city councillors lifted a holding provision on 505 Bayview Dr.
That provision was to ensure Park Place, owned by North American, was developed according to the mix of uses and development phasing outlined in its site-specific zoning bylaw. A data processing centre was not part of the original plans for Park Place, approved by the Ontario Municipal Board in 2006.
Lifting the holding provision allowed North American to sell the property so that a data processing centre, complete with parking spaces and landscaping, could be built.
These lands are located on the east side of Bayview Drive, just south of Churchill Drive. There will be access from both streets onto the 25-acre property. Barrie Molson Centre is just south of this site.
A traffic study has indicated this data centre would not have a substantial impact on volumes in this area.
Sutton Group Incentive Real Estate Inc., Brokerage
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