Saturday, June 30, 2012

Waterloo's Reputation Takes a Beating

Waterloo could use a boost from a good PR firm. RIM is being discussed in major media outlets around the world, and nobody seems to have anything good to say about our town.

Last week, on a day that topped 35 Celsius, one analyst site posted a photo of Waterloo in the winter, with a miserable-looking man walking in front of a RIM sign in driving snow (link).

Among the many arguments for Why RIM Failed, a prevalent one is that it is based in a podunk town with no technical talent. You read comments like: the marketing staff are all high school dropouts from rural towns around Waterloo; RIM management failed because nobody with talent would live in Waterloo; RIM would have survived if it had relocated to Kanata or Silicon Valley.

Some commenters on online Globe & Mail articles seem to think that Waterloo got an unfair advantage in having RIM here, as if the government had somehow chosen Waterloo as the recipient of the high tech company. One commenter was angry that RIM wasn't relocated to BC; another that it wasn't in Ottawa.

Nobody seems to remember the University of Waterloo or Communitech or the flourishing high tech sector in Waterloo Region other than RIM. Some even disparage the record of UW, list better schools (one commenter mentions UMass Amherst, UMich Ann Arbor and Indiana Bloomington as all being superior).

But the main thread I'm seeing is that Waterloo is not a good place to live: it's "in the middle of nowhere" and unattractive. Quite a turnaround from just a few years ago when RIM was riding high and we were "the world's most intelligent community." This is my home town so I'm biased, but I don't want to see our reputation permanently tarnished.

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