People in BlackBerry's hometown of Waterloo, Ont., are trying to stay positive amid news that the company is letting go 40 per cent of its workforce, saying the region's established tech industry will absorb the soon to be laid off workers.
How many of the 4,500 jobs will be cut from BlackBerry headquarters in Waterloo is not yet clear. In 2012 the company laid off 5,000 employees.
Seyed Bakar has been running Koh-i-noor Indian restaurant near the company's headquarters for the past nine years. Two years ago, he said, their dining room would be full every lunch hour — but not any more.
"We used to feed 60, 70 people in the lunch time. And now, maybe 20 people," said Bakar.
Thousands of BlackBerry workers drive a large part of the local economy; eating at Bakar's restaurant, getting their cars serviced at Jim Voight's garage, among other businesses.
"We probably have about 60 per cent of our clients right now, working at RIM," said Voight.
Strong local tech sector will support workers
"I'm confident a lot of them will find work because this area has always been a busy area long before RIM came along," said Voight. "All the buildings around us were full of tech companies, so as RIM moves along, if that's what they do — or they shrink and leave some of their buildings — there will be other companies that come along and start up and there's always going to be jobs in this area," said Voight.
The hope from many in Waterloo Region is that in the face of massive job cuts, plummeting stock prices and declining market share, the greater technological ecosystem that BlackBerry helped create will absorb this latest development and move forward.
Tim Jackson, University of Waterloo's vice-president of university relations, said the region's tech sector has a strong foundation rooted in the university's reputation as a leader in engineering and computer science.
"University of Waterloo is really the nucleus of economic activity that happens in this region, and yesterday is a perfect example, with Jack Dorsey, the co-founder of Twitter and the co-founder of Square, was on campus at the University of Waterloo to announce that Square would be establishing a presence in Waterloo Region," said Jackson.
"Going forward we don't expect that to change."