Kinaxis to build new Kanata West HQ to accommodate rapid growth

Kinaxis
An early rendering of Kinaxis's new Kanata West HQ.

John Sicard remembers how people laughed when he once compared his burgeoning supply-chain software firm to another made-in-Ottawa tech darling.

“I think I said this once before ​– and people made fun of me a little bit ​– at one point I said, we’re going to make Cognos look small,” the chief executive of Kinaxis said Monday after the company announced it was planning to relocate to a brand new headquarters in the Kanata West Business Park to accommodate its rapidly growing employee count. 

At 153,000 square feet, the new building next to the Tanger outlet mall will be more than double the size of Kinaxis’s current 64,000-square-foot head office on Silver Seven Road. In addition, the company has the option to add a second building of 100,000 square feet to provide space for long-term future growth.

At about 600 people ​– more than 400 of them employed in Ottawa ​– Kinaxis still has a long way to go to match Cognos’s headcount of some 3,500 as an independent entity before it was purchased by IBM in 2008. 

Nonetheless, the firm that was founded as Cadence Computer Corp. in 1984 has been adding employees at a steady clip of about 20 per cent annually in recent years – a rate the company expects to continue en route to doubling its headcount in the next five years. 

“We’re recruiting every single day,” said Megan Paterson, the firm’s head of human resources.

Kinaxis’s main product, called RapidResponse, uses big-data analytics to help clients such as Ford, Nissan and Toyota get a better handle on their inventory, preparing them for a range of “what-if” scenarios that could disrupt the manufacturing process and ensuring they have the right amount of raw materials they need to keep the assembly lines rolling.

Although it doesn’t grab headlines like some other local tech powerhouses, Kinaxis has evolved into a highly profitable company that is projecting revenues of nearly $200 million in fiscal 2019. The firm recently added to its list of high-profile customers, announcing deals earlier this month with Yamaha Motors, Johnson Electric and Infosys.

And Sicard says there’s much more to come.

“We’ve got over a hundred customers with thousands to go,” Sicard said. “We’re just getting started. There’s a tremendous amount of runway, and we believe we have the right talent. We’re building a Canadian giant.”

Traffic woes contribute to move

Taggart Realty Management, which beat out five other bidders for the contract to build the new headquarters, expects to break ground on the project next spring. Sicard said his team seriously looked at a couple of locations in Kanata North but ultimately chose to go a few blocks west to Taggart’s new business park after surveying employees, who expressed concerns about traffic congestion in more tech-saturated parts of town.

“We just don’t know how that (traffic issue) would ultimately get solved in Kanata North,” Sicard said, adding employees were also excited about being close to amenities such as Tanger and the chance to be the anchor tenant in a brand new building. “When you hear something that overwhelming, then you have to listen.”

Paterson said many employees actively lobbied for Taggart, noting that when the decision was announced a few days ago, there were “cheers all over the office. That tells us we definitely made the right decision, which is great.”

The firm’s current headquarters lacks many of the features, such as a cafeteria, now considered almost mandatory at a modern tech HQ, she said.

“It’s been a great location, but we’re getting to that size where we really need to provide more options for employees,” she said, adding the final design of the new building is still being worked out but will almost certainly include food services, a gym and green space for employees to relax.

Sicard said his firm’s pending move is just one more sign that tech is entering a new heyday in the capital.

“We lived through the Silicon Valley North days, we all remember,” he said. “That (image) sort of got tarnished a little bit over the years, and it sort of feels like it’s coming back. The shine is coming back on the city.”