Analysis: Will tech companies stay committed to Christchurch? A roll call

Scroll to end of story for updates.

Tech companies and telcos have given selflessly since the second Christchurch quake hit. They've ensured the safety of their own staff, and moved quickly to help customers, each other, and the city.

Yet tough decisions lie ahead.

Staff and customers will be looking for techs to commit to staying in the city or, in some cases, re-commit to promised expansion.

In this blog, which I’ll update through the day as responses come in, I’ll be asking ICT companies about their plans.

Some obviously face distractions, and some will want to gather more information before they make any announcements.

And, of course, you have to bear in mind that larger outfits, and multi-nationals, have more room to manoeuvre than smaller companies.

But, by the same token, I’m sure there are also people out there who’ll appreciate a few affirmations.

Companies I’ll be approaching will include 2degrees, which recently revealed plans to open a call centre in Christchurch, before the end of the year, eventually employing 60; Datacom and Telecom services division Gen-i (which both have data centres in the city); Jade; Tait Radio Communications; and HP/EDS (which has a software development centre in Christchurch) estimated to be worth $40 million a year to the Canterbury economy when it opened in 2009.

Any other companies who want to send an update, email ckeall@nbr.co.nz, and I'll publish it below.


ENDACE

Although listed on London's AIM index (AIM: EDA), computer network security company Endace remains headquartered in Auckland, and in 2009 it boosted numbers at its Hamilton R&D centre from 59 to 90.

In July 2010, it received a $4.4 million grant from government agency TechNZ; in August, Endace returned the favour, moving hardware manufacturing from Asia to Christchurch - through a contract deal with GPC Electronics

Will Endace still with Christchurch? One would certainly hope so, given the amount of support the country has given the company (in December, the company received a further $6.7 million, this time throught the government's new, $189 million Technology Development Grant scheme).

And, happily, that's the case. CEO Mike Riley told NBR that "as long as GPC's in town, we'll be there." (Scroll down for GPC's testimony).

Endace is due to deliver its annual result shortly. For its financial year to March 2010, it eeked out a £120,000 profit on revenue of £31 million.


HP

In August 2009, HP opened a software development centre in Christchurch. Around 50 staff would serve the company's international clients. The centre - which HP saw as growing to support around 150 staff - was seen as worth around $40 million a year to the Christchurch economy.

HP would not comment specifically on staff numbers today, but a spokesman did offer:

"Since the launch of the Best Shore Applications Centre in August 2009 we have experienced 140% growth. We are in hiring mode and there are currently a significant number of open vacancies. We are committed to our strategy to grow the centre and our goal is to double our workforce again in 2011."

The development centre is still headed by its founding boss, Alex Bouma (pictured above). Back at its 2009 opening, Mr Bouma conceded wages were a little lower in Christchurch, but said he thought the lifestyle would attract staff.

In terms of the company's overall presence in the city, a spokesman said, "HP remains committed to Christchurch. HP New Zealand buildings did suffer damage.However they have been cleared as structurally safe. Business operations have resumed at both the Sir William Pickering Drive and Princess Street facilities."


INFORMATION LEADERSHIP

From director Sarah Heal:

We just wanted to add Information Leadership to the list of tech companies who are 100% committed to remaining in Christchurch.

Information Leadership, through its flagship iWorkplace system, has the most compliance grade document and records management implementations in New Zealand, all based on the Microsoft SharePoint platform.

Our clients and North Island consultants have been fantastic during this time in offering support and ensuring we can continue to provide services to our customers in Christchurch and New Zealand-wide.

We could move if we wanted to – but a number of our great team are based here in Christchurch and though the damage to our homes and our office in Sumner has forced us to temporarily relocate, we won’t be giving up on this region.

[Information Leadership has 9 staff based in Christchurch]


SNAP INTERNET

From chief executive Jamie Cairns:

Snap is totally committed to Christchurch. This is our home and we're not going anywhere.

We're committed to helping out throughout the rebuild phase, growing our team, providing local ICT scholarships and work experience just like before, investing in our datacentre and ISP operations, and taking on more of a physical presence in Christchurch.

Christchurch is too much of a part of Snap to simply pick up and leave.


MAXNET

From chief executive John Hanna:

Maxnet's Christchurch data centre, which provides hosting and virtualisation services to local businesses, while also serving as a secondary, back-up data centre for clients based outside of Christchurch, was unaffected by the earthquake.

Our support for the people of Christchurch varies from moving business' physical servers into our Christchurch or Auckland data centres to providing them with a virtualised server environment. We are offering both of these services free for one month via our partners.

[Maxnet, which has 50 staff across Auckland and Christchurch, is currently advertising three full time Christchurch positions]


ORION HEALTH

With more than $100 million in annual revenue (much of it from health information system contracts landed in the US and elsewhere offshore), fast-growing Orion Health is one of our highest flying techs.

The privately-held, Auckland-based company (whose total staff numbers around 450), is also one of New Zealand's largest employers of software developers.

Just a month before the quake, Orion signed a lease on a building in Christchurch. It was the first step in its plan to open a 30-person software development centre in the city, headed by Jeff Wilkinson.

From chief executive Ian McCrae:

Setting up a software development centre in Christchurch is clearly going to be a little harder than we first thought.

It could be a challenge getting people to move to Christchurch or sometimes even getting them to stay.

However this is a long-term commitment for us.

Things will be rebuilt and in five years time, Christchurch will be a modern, world-class city.

Today we have a new building (which today has a green tick) and some staff already employed and 25 NEW jobs.

So Christchurch developers that maybe looking for work should contact us.

[The jobs are listed online here - CK.]
 


MYOB

From managing director Julian Smith:

"MYOB is totally committed to Christchurch and fully intends to maintain all its pre-earthquake operations in the city.

"Our Christchurch team of over 100 provide a range of distribution, finance, sales and support services to our clients throughout NZ and of Australia.

"Our offices have been cleared by independent and council structural engineers and we hope to resume operations as early as Thursday 3 March with full operations resuming on Monday 7 March.

"We temporarily relocated 15 members of the team to work from our Auckland offices, to ensure we can serve our clients as effectively as possible this week. Our Australian offices are also assisting by opening 2 hours earlier each day and providing additional capacity to our contact centre support teams.

"We have a very large number of clients affected in the region and are fully committed to being there, working with them to help rebuild their businesses and the city.

"As an organisation we are truly inspired by the passion, stoicism and shear determination of our Christchurch based teams, our partners and clients. We fully intend to stand by them now and into the future."

[MYOB has 100 staff in Christchurch.]


2DEGREES

From 2degrees director of corporate affairs Mat Bolland:

2degrees is delayed, but not deterred in its plans to open a contact centre in Christchurch.

"The building we had identified was damaged in the earthquake, so we don’t know yet what the timing will be."

[The original timing was before the end of this year. The centre will hold up to 60 staff.]


DIVERSITY

From founder Ben Kepes:

"Luckily my consulting business mainly works online for predominantly US based companies.

"One of the joys of cloud computing is that one can work regardless of physical location. On the day of the quake I was working out of the office of C4 Coffee* in the CBD, but equally I could have been working out of a cafe, my home office or indeed pretty much anywhere on he planet with internet access.

"Having said that, Diversity has existed since day one as a Christchurch business and that won't change.

"It may be a year or two until I actually have somewhere to park my laptop - but I'll be back, earthquakes notwithstanding."

Read also: For a Kiwi hard bastard, an overwhelming sense of hopelessness

* Yes, this is a plug for another of Mr Kepes' businesses, but under the circumstances we're going to let it slide.


GEN-I

From GEN-I AUSTRALASIA CHIEF EXECUTIVE CHRIS QUIN:

We absolutely committed to doing everything we can to support the Christchurch region now and in the challenging times ahead.

Right now we are continuing to restore and maintain critical infrastructure and services across our data centres, voice, data and mobile networks, as well as ensuring the wellbeing and safety of our people and their families. We are also prioritising the support we provide to clients who are providing emergency and government services, as well as those providing essential services and infrastructure.

Our data centres remain operable and our managed networks are performing well. As the needs of the emergency service providers have been sustainably met, we’ve started to work with core service providers to maintain other essential communications services.

We remain committed to Christchurch and we will re-establish our offices as soon as circumstances and the safety of our people allow.

Most of our Christchurch offices remain closed due to structural damage and so that our people can stay at home to support their family, friends and community.

In the meantime, our people across Australasia have picked up the load and are performing admirably in very challenging circumstances. One of our strengths is that as a national organisation we are able to move people, support and services around in disaster situations.

Our technical experts are in the field doing what they can, within clear safety parameters, to restore and maintain IT and telecommunications for our clients in Christchurch. We have diverted our service desk calls to our Wellington, Hamilton and Auckland contact centres.

Some of our Christchurch people who were not directly affected by the earthquake are working remotely from their homes or other temporary accommodation.

Some have based themselves at our warehouse and distribution site, outside of the CBD, which is currently a temporary base for our people. We are ensuring that our people across Australasia are supporting our Christchurch teams as they return to work, and that we are rotating our people on the ground.

This site is also our hub for ICT equipment and services being delivered to support our people and our clients, including servers, laptops, mobile devices and accessories. We are increasing stock levels to help clients restore ICT services.

Our two Christchurch data centres in Hillmorton and Hereford Street are operable, running on Business Continuity plans, and our managed networks are running well. Our ICT Operations teams are monitoring the two sites closely, with temperature and humidity levels stable. The police cordon remains around the CBD for public safety, restricting access to our 109 Hereford Street site. If required, our generators are well fuelled to sustain service for a long period of time and we are working with clients to monitor and maintain services remotely.

For some clients, we're relocating their infrastructure to Gen-i data centres or alternative client sites around the country, and connecting them via our managed voice and data services, which are performing well. Many clients are using our cloud solutions for virtual compute and storage, email and internet security. We're also helping clients with contact centres to divert calls alternative sites, and are providing services that allow clients to maintain voice communications as they work remotely through our Gen-i Mobile Office (GMO) service.

[Gen-i has 350 staff in Christchurch.]
 


MOTIM TECHNOLOGIES

From chief executive Andrew Plimmer:

"Mobile marketing technology specialists Motim Technologies is firmly committed to Christchurch.

"While our office on High St. is right in the middle of the CBD devastation, all staff are safe and the company was operating remotely at near full capacity by Thursday last week.

"Thanks to our cloud-based systems and the commitment of the team it looks like we won't miss a single deadline to our offshore clients. This will become a period of great pride in our company history."

"We were planning to open offices in Barcelona, London and New York this year, and will almost certainly proceed with those plans."

[Motim employees eight Christchurch staff, plus one contractor in Beijing]


JADE SOFTWARE CORPORATION

From managing director Craig Richardson:

"Our passionate staff actually made the decision that we are committed to Christchurch in the moments and hours that followed this tragic event.

"No customer anywhere in the world lost mission critical service.

"Implementations in Italy have since been managed from bedrooms in Christchurch.

"And amid the tourists fleeing the city were dedicated Jade people committed to traveling to Frankfurt to secure new business opportunities.

"The decision to commit to Christchurch is not an emotional one for Jade. It's a rational business decision in response to the unsolicited commitment our staff have shown to punch though adversity and secure their company's future."

Read also: Jade wins $4m in Iraq, Georgia contracts

[Jade has 206 staff in Christchurch.]


ABOVE: Vodafone staffer, en route to Christchurch, posts a Twitter photo of his suitcase "with five temporary cellsites made from No 8 wire."  (A comms staffer later clarified that this was a reference to Sure Signal devices, which would be set up where needed.)

VODAFONE

From general manager of networks Tony Baird:

"Vodafone’s sales office is within the earthquake zone and has been damaged, it is unlikely we will be able to return to that site for at least six months.

"A new location has been found out at Hornby.

"Work to relocate the sales team here has already begun.

"Vodafone’s Technology Centre is located at Christchurch Technology Park out near the airport and is fully operational . It is home to both local engineering staff and a large contingent of support staff from out of town, all of whom are in good spirits.

"This site will remain one of our four national 'strong nodes' and the only one in the South Island.

"We are also working closely with our South Island suppliers who manufacture cabinets, antennas and other infrastructure for our national network and remain committed to supporting them in any way we can including placing orders for additional equipment and hiring skilled technical resources for our planned rollouts and Christchurch rebuild.

"As GM of Networks for Vodafone and someone who has spent over 10 years in Canterbury in the high-tech sector I can assure that whilst it is a challenging time for everyone we remain fully committed to Canterbury."

All Vodafone staff are safe and accounted for.

Read more about all the major carriers' day-to-day quake recovery efforts in NBR's regular Christchurch network status updates.

[Vodafone has 40 permanent staff in Christchurch, excluding channel partners.]


REVERA

From general manager Roger Cockayne: 

“Expansion plans for our cornerstone South Island data centre in Addington are unchanged."

[One of the computing infrastructure provider's four data centres is located in the Christchurch suburb].

“Revera’s Christchurch data centre, in Addington, continues to operate normally and under mains power. We are assisting local businesses to re-establish their networks, and some clients have accepted office space at our Addington facility."

[Revera has five staff in Christchurch]


DATASOUTH

Datasouth has expanded to include offices in Melbourne, Sydney, Auckland and Wellington. This morning, managing director Gavin Bennett told NBR his company was committed to Christchurch, where it originated. Some exerts from an update on Datasouth's operations in the quake-hit city:

"As of today we are operating at 80% of staffing . Our engineering team is at 100% whilst our admin/operations team is severely depleted and this will impact on routine accounting functions.

"The Datasouth premises [in Burnside] are fully intact with all utility services available and our datacentre is completely functional. Superficial damage to ceiling tiles etc. was rectified in the weekend, and the building was given engineering clearance last Wednesday.

The company has contacted more than 100 clients since the quake.

All are being offered hotdesk facilities, including phones and broadband, for up to two hours a day, plus unlimited bandwidth remote hosting.

[Datasouth has 50 staff in Christchurch.]


GPC ELECTRONICS:

From commercial manager Brent O'Meagher:

"GPC Electronics is open and operational and will continue to be. We decided on Friday to open up for staff that wanted to come back this week and we have 45 in here today, (more than half) with the remainder starting through the rest of this week.

"Our facility suffered only minor damage, certainly a lot better than some of our suppliers. We actually have one of them coming into today to use some of our equipment. We're recalibrating everything today and will look to start running our production lines this afternoon."


ZINTEL COGENT

From national technical operations manager Rob Spray:

"We are firmly on the list of companies committed to redeveloping Christchurch, and are already well engaged getting business, and the community connected. The team on the ground in Christchurch started putting customers back together on Thursday last week.

"The numbers of requests are now climbing and we are resourcing from around the country."

[Zintel Cogent has 10 staff based in Christchurch.]


ALCATEL-LUCENT:

From communications director Bryony Hilless: 

"The building in which the Alcatel-Lucent Christchurch office is located, in Manchester Street, is within the cordon and badly damaged.

"We are currently looking at temporary workplaces [for six support engineers] until we either find another office, or a decision is made on the fate of the building in Manchester Street.

"We are committed to Christchurch and our customers within the region. We will continue to have a presence in Christchurch."


GRAB ONE

From founder Shane Bradley:

"The building that our houses our Christchurch office, in Cashel Street, is pretty badly damaged and is probably going to be pulled down.

"But we are fully committed to helping Christchurch businesses over the coming months and will continue to have an office in the city."


HAIRY LEMON WEB SOLUTIONS

From co-founder and director Graham Dockrill:

"Hairy Lemon Web Solutions have been hit on Victoria Street in the central city. As Co-Founder I can confirm we are committed to the city and are currently relocating our team of 30 staff to temporary premises in Hornby.

"We will rebuild, we will return to the CBD and we will be stronger than before."


ARMAGEDDON EXPO

Although it's a bit of a tangent, the Armageddon Expo is an event close to a lot of the tech people's hearts. 

The event incorporates six shows around Australasia, but has its headquarters in Christchurch - and that's where it will stay.

Founder Bill Geradts and family were in Christchurch when the earthquake hit, and he said in a statement that both the Armageddon office and his home suffered extensive damage.

Asked if the head office would remain in the city, a spokeman told NBR: "Yes - absolutely. Bill is very determined to be part of the recovery of the city."


ZEEVO

From Zeevo managing director, Brendan Sullivan:

“Zeevo is here, willing and able to be a catalyst for this change and from small beginnings we hope to see and be a part of the revival of our beautiful city. There is an opportunity to rebuild Christchurch as a world-class city and retain what can’t be broken - the passion and character of its citizens."

[Mobile and web development company Zeevo has 11 staff, all based in Christchurch. Its office, near Riccarton, was unaffected by the quake and reopened today.]

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