Monday, April 23, 2018

New MDA Group Pres says US Parent "Won't Affect Canadian Jobs" but BC HQ Moved & Old HQ "Will Eventually Close"

         By Henry Stewart

It's amazing the differences between what MDA, the now Brampton, ON based subsidiary of Westminster, CO based Maxar Technologies, will tell traditional media outlets like the venerable Toronto, ON based Canadian Press, and what it's willing to tell media outlets it sponsors and feels friendly towards.

MDA's new group president Mike Greenley is seen in front of one of three RADARSAT Constellation Mission (RCM) spacecrafts being built for the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) at the MDA facility in Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue, PQ on January 30th, 2018. As a Canadian based company under the name MacDonald Dettwiler and Associates (MDA), the firm was responsible for earlier Canadian successes such as the various Canadarm's and RADARSAT 1&2. The new MDA wants to remain the "go-to" private sector supplier for Canadian government space focused hardware and Canadian industry "capacity building," a process where individuals and organizations "obtain, improve, and retain the skills, knowledge, and resources needed to do their jobs competently or to a greater capacity." It's worth noting that capacity building generally costs more than normal procurement. Photo c/o CP/Ryan Remiorz.

For example, "nothing has moved and nothing is moving," MDA group president Mike Greenley said in the April 21st, 2018 CP post, "MDA president says having parent firm in United States won't affect Canadian jobs."

As outlined in the post, Greenley, the head of the new MDA, said that MDA and Maxar have been "very transparent and talked openly" about shifting the head office south of the border.

Greenley oversees all of the MDA lines of business and its 1,900 employees in Canada. He's quoted in the article as stating that:
My job is to run it and grow it bigger in Canada, for Canada, and exporting from Canada to the rest of the world. 
You have to export and access foreign markets in order to grow to scale (because) Canada's economy is only so big...
Of course, Greenley told a substantially different story in the April 19th, 2018 SpaceQ post, "MDA Marketing New Robotic Kits for On-Orbit Servicing."

As outlined in that story, there have been at least a few, major changes:
One of the notable changes Greenley instituted was moving senior management to the Brampton, Ontario office. 
Greenley says the downtown Vancouver office which served as MDA’s corporate headquarters will eventually close.
SpaceQ is heavily sponsored by MDA and provides mostly favorable coverage of MDA activities, as can be seen on the main SpaceQ website. That's probably why the SpaceQ post (which included an audio interview) led with the updates to the MDA product line, a far less newsworthy story, and only included the news about MDA's corporate HQ relocation further down in the body of the article.

This blog reached out by e-mail to Peter Rakobowchuk, the author of the CP article for his response to the SpaceQ post.

According to Rakobowchuk, the CP interview was held some time ago, and "Greenley mentioned in the recent CP interview that he would be working out of MDA’s Brampton office," but didn't specify that the MDA HQ was relocating to Brampton.

In essence, the relocation and any implications that may have for BC employees, may not have been finalized when the interview took place. So nothing was noted in the CP article.

An April 23rd, 2018 screenshot of the SpaceQ website showing MDA advertising in the bottom right hand corner. As demonstrated in the April 23rd, 2018 SpaceQ "Shorcuts" Newsletter MDA also promotes its Canadian heritage through the SpaceQ newsletter. It's certainly not uncommon for large aerospace companies to sponsor smaller news outlets. A recent example of this would be Politico Space, a "weekly must-read briefing on the policies and personalities shaping the second space age. Presented by Boeing." While there is nothing wrong with this sort of sponsorship, just so long as everything is out in the open, it's also an obvious editorial bias, which readers should note. Screenshot c/o SpaceQ

Over the longer term, MDA's US managers at Maxar may have come up with an alternate plan to control the message getting out to their shareholders. They'll write it themselves.

Since February 2018, the company has been posting short articles written by Maxar executives on its new "Maxar Technologies Blog."

Most of the writing has been attributed to Maxar CEO Howard Lance and includes the April 20th, 2018 post, "Spaceview: Advancing US Leadership in Space," the March 28th, 2018 post, "Spaceview: The Power of X" and the March 9th, 2018 post, "Spaceview: Right Place, Right Time."

But there's also at least one, March 29th, 2018 post from Walter Scott, Maxar's EVP & CTO under the title, "How the US Government Benefits from 'Buying Commercial'" and more posts from other senior Maxar executives can be reasonably expected over the next little while.

Ostensibly independent news outlets like SpaceQ, along with legitimately independent (if more traditional) outlets like CP (and even this blog) need to prepare for the day when large companies like Maxar attempt to exert tighter control of their own news stories and content distribution.

After all, hundreds of millions of dollars of stock valuation are at stake and large, publicly traded companies like Maxar/ MDA cannot be expected to simply lie back and let others define their valuations and future options.

Henry Stewart is the pseudonym of a Toronto based aerospace writer

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