All of us have heard about the Alberta Advantage. But the
Edmonton Advantage? You better believe it, says Nizar J. Somji,
As president and CEO of Matrikon, Mr. Somji charts the upward
path of one of the provincial capital's most noteworthy corporate
successes. The technological sector, as a whole, has endured
nearly three years of non-stop struggles, but Matrikon has
kept right on truckin'.
An information technology company that sells and services
its signature software products on six continents, Matrikon
(MTK on the Toronto Stock Exchange) pleased shareholders in
April by reporting record earnings for the second quarter.
Despite challenges created by the fluctuating Canadian dollar,
Mr. Somji believes the company should remain on track throughout
the current quarter. Meanwhile, Matrikon plans to add as many
as 50 employees to its roster of almost 450.
Analysts often cite a richly diversified industrial client
base and efficient governance as reasons for Matrikon's resistance
to the woes afflicting its business rivals.
But Mr. Somji believes the city of Edmonton deserves a slice
of the credit. "It's a good spot, for a number of reasons,"
he explains during a chat in his 18th-floor office above Jasper
"The cost of doing business in Edmonton is low, even
compared to Calgary. It's almost 20 per cent cheaper for office
He's equally enthusiastic about the high-quality grads who
continue to emerge from the University of Alberta, the Northern
Alberta Institute of Technology and Grant MacEwan College.
Mr. Somji estimates between 60 and 70 per cent of his staff
acquired their post-secondary training and education locally.
Work for Matrikon,
See the World
Thanks to Matrikon's long list of offshore customers, many
of them are seeing the world.
"We have a U of A grad heading up our operations in Australia,"
Mr. Somji says, running down the list. "The fellow who
runs our office in Bahrain is a U of A grad, the guys who
run our Eastern Canada office, our New York, St. Louis and
Houston offices - they all came out of the U of A."
Of course, Mr. Somji is another proud alumnus. He earned his
M.Eng. in process control/chemical at the U of A, after taking
his bachelor's in electrical engineering in England.
Now providing software solutions to a remarkably broad range
of corporate clients, representing the automotive, mining,
oil and gas, forestry and pharmaceutical industries, Matrikon
started out almost 15 years ago as a one-man consulting operation,
based in Red Deer.
"We were initially a service-oriented company,"
Mr. Somji recalls with a grin. "I wrote many of our first
programs on DOS and Windows 3.1. Now our younger people can
write code much faster than I was ever able to do."
Mr. Somji honed his practical skills during stints with both
Dow Chemical and Nova Chemicals before he decided to fly solo.
And he admits his technical background didn't necessarily
equip him with the entrepreneurial pizzazz needed to build
He met any shortfalls in that area, however, by adhering to
a business adage: hire wisely.
"That was the breakthrough. We hired key entrepreneurs
who created the marketing energy we needed," Mr. Somji
Many of those hires were fresh from campus. "That's what's
so satisfying. You see people who started with us at a young
age really making things happen for the company," he
"I go out on sales calls with them and I can see the
entrepreneurial energy that drives them. It's fun to see."
Good News Keeps Coming
Of course, nothing's more enjoyable than informing your shareholders
that revenues are robust and earnings are healthy. Since going
public two years ago, Matrikon's been bullish on that kind
of encouraging news.
In 2002 Canadian Business Magazine ranked Matrikon ninth among
publicly traded tech companies, with rankings based on revenue
and profitability growth. Last spring, meanwhile, Matrikon
nailed two important Alberta Business Awards of Distinction,
including the Premier's Award for Outstanding Achievement.
Why? No mystery at all, shrugs Nizar Somji. It's his people.