One of the things I love about my job is hearing success stories from our clients. Recently, I was thinking about two companies from different industries in very different parts of the country. But it occurred to me that their stories share a common thread – Both have leveraged their international business success to grow their local communities in rural Canada.
Where history meets innovation: How HB Studios put Nova Scotia’s video game industry on the global map
Lunenburg, Nova Scotia is a Maritime town with a fascinating shipbuilding history. But Lunenburg’s economy has evolved – first to speed boat racing, and now as a centre of IT innovation. Thanks to HB Studios, which designs sports-themed video games for global customers, Lunenburg is now known across Canada and the world as a creative tech hub.
Founded in 2000, HB employs around 80 people locally and is a major supporter of the local community. They are best known for sports video games carried by industry giant, EA Sports.
They are among the nearly 600 studios in the country that contribute nearly $4 billion annually to Canada’s GDP, and driving innovation across many sectors here. Canada’s video game industry is the third-largest in the world.
The company chose to locate in Lunenburg for the work-life balance the town offered.
“Nova Scotia as a whole offers a great environment for individuals and families,” explains CEO Alan Bunker. “In addition to this, schools and colleges across Atlantic Canada offer excellent software engineering courses so the recruitment pool of raw talent is very good. We actually have two offices, one in Lunenburg and one in Halifax, so we’re able to provide a work environment in both rural Lunenburg and the city.”
Roughly 3,500 kms west is St. Jean Baptiste, Manitoba and home to SK2 Homes. The small town of less than 2,000 people has a unique French-Canadian history and is located along the U.S. border. It’s here SK2 Homes builds RTM (Ready-To-Move) homes on-site and transports them directly to clients.
Owner Kevin Klassen explains that his company offers a more innovative approach to the traditional construction industry through the use of tools like Virtual Reality to ensure their customers get exactly what they envisioned. The company contracts out work to about 20 local labourers and benefits from the stability of Manitoba’s economy.
Although St. Jean Baptiste isn’t a large enough community to support having its own local builder, community size doesn’t challenge SK2 Homes’ success. By broadening their customer base and working with clients throughout Manitoba, Saskatchewan and North Dakota, SK2 Homes can thrive and give back to the community it calls home.
Klassen sees a similar approach to how the company deals with customers and its neighbours. “We have a people-first mindset in business and in community development.”
The company is involved in numerous local initiatives that include supporting youth hockey, working with local schools, mentoring young workers entering the construction industry and coordinating with local entrepreneurs to form “BOHO” - Business Owners Helping Others.
Similarly, by serving a market much larger than its immediate environs, HB studios has grown quickly and can give back much more than if it restricted itself to local distribution.
“We’ve always been a company selling and competing in the global marketplace,” says Bunker. And they’ve also been a key contributor to many community growth projects.
The company provides scholarships at the local schools, regularly invites school tours, supports local charities, festivals and educational institutions. The company was central in supporting the Bridgewater HB Studios Sports Centre.
Two companies in very different industries and geographies. Both share the drive for international trade and use their global success to promote, fund and grow their local communities. Just another great reason for Canadian firms to look beyond our borders for business success.