Ciena to move to new Kanata North campus

Calling Ottawa “a thriving technology hub and a great place to do business,” networking equipment maker Ciena Corp. announced Friday it was moving to a new campus in Kanata North that includes the former Blackberry building near the corner of March Road and Terry Fox Drive.

In addition to that 173,000-square-foot facility, the campus will include two new buildings with an additional 250,000 square feet of space, with construction set to begin this spring. Ciena’s employees will start to move from the company’s current home in the old Nortel facilities at Carling Avenue and Moodie Drive this fall.

Ciena senior vice-president and chief strategy officer James Frodsham said the move makes sense for the Maryland-based firm, which already houses more than 50 per cent of its R&D staff in Ottawa and will now have more room to expand its research and development efforts.

“It is a world-class talent base that powers a lot of the innovation that’s taking place within the company,” he said. “Frankly, building from that base makes a lot of sense. You can’t find this talent anywhere else in the world.”

With 1,500 local employees, Ciena is one of the capital’s largest tech employers. The company beefed up its presence in the city significantly in 2010, when it bought Nortel Networks’ carrier ethernet and optical networking division for $773.8 million US.

Mr. Frodsham listed a number of reasons why Ciena is a big fan of Ottawa as an R&D hub, including its highly skilled labour pool and the presence of government-backed facilities such as the National Research Council.

“The government support from all levels is important, the quality of life in Ottawa is incredibly important to our employees and the critical mass of talent really sort of creates the trifecta,” he said.

Ciena, which spends more than $180 million in research and development at its Ottawa facilities each year, will invest another $150 million in the new Kanata North campus. The company’s new footprint will be nearly 100,000 square feet larger than its current space on Carling Avenue, which is being taken over by the Department of National Defence in the fall of 2016.

Ciena will assume an 18-year lease at the former Blackberry facility at 5050 Innovation Dr. and a 15-year lease on the two new buildings next door. In total, the new campus will cover 425,000 square feet when it is completed in 2017.

Mayor Jim Watson said Ciena’s announcement continues a hot streak for the city’s technology sector, following on the heels of Shopify’s recent decision to launch an IPO and a $20-million new funding round for GaN Systems earlier this week.

“The high-tech sector took a bit of a hit over the last couple of years, but it’s starting to bounce back,” the mayor said after taking part in groundbreaking ceremony Friday morning with other dignitaries, including Premier Kathleen Wynne and Pierre Poilievre, federal minister of employment and social development.

“I’m very confident about the tech sector. It’s going to fill a lot of the void of other jobs that we’ve lost in the community in the last few years.”

Noting the new campus gives Ciena “plenty of room for growth,” Mr. Frodsham said the company plans to expand its workforce in Ottawa over the next few years.

He said Friday’s news sends a strong message to investors that Silicon Valley North is back.

“You need a critical mass, you need anchor tenants within the community and we believe Ciena is one of those anchor tenants,” he said. “But around those anchor tenants, there’s innovation flourishing. Innovation is alive and well in Ottawa.”