$3.5M loan to Desire2Learn still pending after 15 months
E-learning company has set up office, is bullish on expansion plans for N.L.
More than 15 months after the Newfoundland and Labrador government announced a $3.5-million forgivable loan to lure an e-learning firm to the province, none of the money has been provided to the company.
In October 2012, government officials held a media event at Signal Hill to trumpet the investment, which they said propelled Desire2Learn to expand its operations into Newfoundland and Labrador.
The Department of Innovation declined interview requests, but said in a statement it is still working on conditions for the funding — something that should be done “in the near future.”
Desire2Learn did set up an office in St. John’s last summer.
Company officials told CBC News they could not speak about the 2012 agreement with the province due to strict confidentiality terms.
But Desire2Learn CEO John Baker said he remains bullish on the expansion.
We’re thrilled with the quality of people that we’re finding in Newfoundland, we’re excited about the opportunity, and it is certainly on track from what we’ve seen in terms of our ability to hire the best and brightest.- Desire2Learn CEO John Baker
“We’re thrilled with the quality of people that we’re finding in Newfoundland, we’re excited about the opportunity, and it is certainly on track from what we’ve seen in terms of our ability to hire the best and brightest,” Baker said.
“Now obviously we want to continue to accelerate that growth.”
As of mid-December, Desire2Learn had just under 10 employees in the province.
The 2012 announcement indicated that the company expected the number to hit 35 within five years.
Baker, who is originally from Wesleyville on Newfoundland’s northeast coast, said Desire2Learn still expects to achieve that target.
“[We’re] going through a lot of growth — excited about 2014,” he said.
“And [we’re] really excited about the great talent and the people that we have in St. John’s.”
According to Baker, Desire2Learn employs 750 people globally.
In the past 18 months, he said, the company opened offices in Australia and Brazil.
The forgivable loan to Desire2Learn is slated to come from the provincial government’s controversial business attraction fund.
That fund hit the spotlight in early 2012, in the wake of a CBC News investigation which found that more than $20 million spent on business-attraction efforts netted just dozens of jobs in return.