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July 5, 2007

Microsoft building dev center in Vancouver, B.C.

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano at 8:43 AM

Perhaps in a nod to Canada's more open policies toward highly skilled immigrants, Microsoft is planning a new software development center in Vancouver, B.C., to open this fall.

In a statement announcing the Canada Development Centre today, S. Somasegar, corporate vice president of the Microsoft Developer Division, said, "Our goal as a company is to attract the next generation of leading software developers from all parts of the world, and this center will be a beacon for some of that talent."

This will not be one of the company's research and development centers spread around the world, but rather a software development center, comparable to others Microsoft operates in North Carolina, Ireland, Denmark and Israel. Most of the company's software development work continues to be done in Redmond.

In the company's statement today, it praised the virtues of the Vancouver area and contrasted the immigration situation in Canada to that of the United States.

"The Vancouver area is a global gateway with a diverse population, is close to Microsoft's corporate offices in Redmond and allows the company to recruit and retain highly skilled people affected by immigration issues in the U.S.," the statement reads.

Last week, Microsoft lamented the demise of the immigration reform bill under consideration in the Senate. Microsoft and other U.S. technology companies have complained that a limit on highly skilled immigrants is hindering their ability to obtain the talent they need to compete.

The statement did not describe the size or precise location of the new center. I've requested additional details and will update this post when I get them.

Update: Microsoft spokesman Lou Gellos said the Vancouver site will start out with "a couple hundred" employees with room to grow. An exact location has not been chosen yet. The company is still considering several sites in the greater Vancouver area, including the surrounding communities of Surrey, Richmond and Burnaby, he said.

Gellos said the U.S. immigration situation "is part of the reason for having a development center in the Vancouver area, however, I would have to say that it's only one reason."

Other reasons include British Columbia's "burgeoning tech sector"; "repeated requests" from the Canadian government about whether Microsoft would expand its presence in Western Canada; and the fact that Microsoft already recruits heavily from universities in the greater Vancouver area, Gellos said.

Further, he said the timing of the announcement is coincidental to the demise of the immigration reform bill. "The fact of the matter is, it's happening right after that happened, but we had been contemplating this for quite some time," Gellos said, adding that the announcement was timed to the summer tech recruiting season.

Gellos had no details on what specific functions would be performed at the Canada Development Centre.

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