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Cobham Tracking and Locating closing 

British firm had received millions of dollars in Canadian taxpayer subsidies.


Cobham Tracking and Locating has announced that it will close its Dartmouth office by the end of the year, putting 55 people out of work and killing an important part of Nova Scotia’s tech industry---one nursed along with millions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies and loans.

As The Coast reported last year (see “From Nova Scotia with love," April 5, 2012), in 2007 the gigantic British munitions firm Cobham PLC bought two home-grown Nova Scotian firms---Orion Electronics and Semiac Ltd.---and merged them into Cobham Tracking and Locating.

Orion was created in 1975 by Hugh Roddis, and built surveillance gear used by police and military. By 2005, the company had received just under a million dollars in ACOA loans to help develop manufacturing lines.

Semiac was created in 1978 by Joseph Seiler and Hugh MacPherson, two Navy engineers who saw an opportunity to build and sell tracking devices used by the Navy and by the Bedford Institute of Oceanography. When GPS technology was developed in the 1990s, the firm wcreated the wildly successful SLB-1000, an emergency locator beacon used by downed aircraft crews. Semiac received about $130,000 from ACOA

Then Cobham entered the scene. In 2008 the new company received a $500,000 loan to create a successor beacon, the SLB-2000. The National Research Council gave Cobham outright grants of $213,500 in 2009 and $94,700 in 2010. The company also received tax credits through Revenue Canada's Scientific Research and Experimental Development Tax Incentive Program. The dollar amounts of those credits are not public record, but company insiders told The Coast it was in the millions of dollars.

Cobham Tracking and Locating’s most successful product, the SLB-2000, is now built in Florida. Effectively, millions of dollars in Canadian taxpayer subsidies have been used to employ American workers.

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