In Cochrane, Alberta, just 30 minutes from Calgary, Garmin Canada tests its products first-hand in the region’s Rocky Mountain playground – from high-tech bike pedals and GPS-enabled watches, to dog training devices and swim tech.
“Our core research and development for fitness and outdoor products demands our location be one that can support growth and innovation while providing an exceptional outdoor lifestyle,” said Jim Rooney, Managing Director, Garmin Canada.
This close proximity to the Canadian Rockies is what draws many to the region to live, work and play. It’s a major livability perk that helps the city achieve its vision in the economic strategy, Calgary in the New Economy: to be the city of choice for the world’s best entrepreneurs who embrace technology to solve the world’s greatest challenges.
Rooney was a co-founder of Dynastream Innovations, which developed “the ANT wireless protocol”, the world’s first ultra-low-power wireless standard. Today, that technology is integrated into countless products globally. Dynastream was acquired by its long-time customer Garmin in 2006. In 2018, Garmin made Cochrane their official Canadian headquarters.
“One of the reasons we all love what we do is that our family and friends could be using the watches or power meters that we helped develop in our office,” said Catherine Preston, one of the marketers at Garmin. “Walking into a retailer and seeing these products on store shelves is extremely rewarding.”
Every day, the Canadian R&D team in Cochrane interacts with several of the other 82 Garmin offices worldwide. Engineering HQ is in Kansas; in South Africa, engineers developed radar technology for cyclists; in the Netherlands, they design and engineer indoor bike trainers and training software. Manufacturing engineers at Garmin’s Taiwan-based factories are experts at building sophisticated products at scale.
At 45,000 square feet, Garmin Canada’s HQ currently houses about 160 of the 200 people it was envisioned to hold when its new building opened just three years ago. Adding the teammates and business necessary to justify a third floor is one of the things driving the team.
“We have a vision: as we continue to provide great innovative products and technologies for Garmin’s business, we will continue to grow, and need it,” said Robyn Schmidt, Software Engineering Manager, Garmin Canada. “We’re often asking ourselves: ‘What’s it going to take to get to the third floor?’”
As a major player in the region’s innovation ecosystem, Garmin also boasts a strong university internship program that supports approximately 20 third and fourth-year students in mechanical, software and hardware engineering.
As for what new products are on the horizon: “We don’t know precisely what the next product will be five years from now, but we do know that it will push boundaries and create new magic,” said Schmidt.