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Bell commits to using local labour

Olympic telecommunications provider’s pledge pleases local builders

Bell Canada said this week that it is committed to using local labour wherever it can as the company gears up to provide technology services for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Whistler and Vancouver.

"We will ensure that the local businesses in this community have the opportunity to take advantage of the spending we are going to do on infrastructure," Bell’s Norm Silins told a packed Whistler Chamber of Commerce breakfast briefing this week.

In fact part of Bell’s $200 million sponsorship agreement with the Vancouver Organizing Committee was a commitment to use local companies wherever possible, he said.

That was good news for builder Tim Regan, owner of Vision Pacific.

"They understand the economic models of using local business and the multiplier that does to effect the economy, so I feel good about that," he said after the meeting.

"And I feel good that the Chamber has come to the homebuilders as a group with this. We are very unified in working together and promoting our industry, which is the second biggest employer in Whistler next to Intrawest."

Nigel Woods of Coastal Mountain Excavations was also pleased to hear that Bell wanted to go local.

"I think there is the opportunity for local businesses, particularly if they are members of the Chamber, to contact (Bell) directly," he said.

"I was encouraged. They were clearly there to make their presence known to the local business population. And I think the amount of work now and in the future is going to be significant."

Silins, who put the technology plan together which helped Bell win the VANOC sponsorship, explained that the 2010 Games would be the first Olympics to solely use Internet Protocol systems.

This means that all voice and data services will be delivered using this "postal service." It will allow the company to drastically cut the number of physical cables used and take advantage of Bell’s push toward this type of system nationally.

Silins said Bell has already invested $1 billion in B.C. and the company plans to invest another billion in the next 12 to 18 months. And by 2010 the company expects to have at least 2,000 employees in B.C., up from today’s 700.

Bell plans to open a storefront in Whistler in the next two years and another 50 stores in B.C. in the coming year or so.

The company will supply 7,000 PCS handsets to the Olympic family during the Games and thousands of push-to-talk radios as well. It expects about 400,000 calls a day on the radio network as they are used by judges, security, volunteers, and healthcare workers during the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Bell will also provide 5,500 flat screen televisions for spectators throughout the venues to watch and provide critical technology for media.

"After all a skier only crosses the finish line once and we don’t want to miss that picture," said Silins.

It isn’t clear at the moment how much Bell will spend on its plans, said Silins, as it has yet to be worked out how much of the technology will be brought in just for the Games and how much will be a legacy.

But there is no doubt the legacy will be significant, he said.

"The legacy for Whistler is that there is new competition for telecom services for wireless, voice and data, and Internet services," said Silins.

"You will have tremendous capacity for connectivity that didn’t exist before and you will have a legacy of wireless services which includes PCS. So it is competition, it is infrastructure and it is a new service provider.

"You will have the latest technology up to the date of the Games time."