Live here, work there: Sarnia’s lifestyle draws telecommuters

Marc Hammond lives in Bright’s Grove and works for an Ottawa aviation company. He and wife Stefanie opted to settle in Sarnia to raise their two children and work remotely for their employers. Glenn Ogilvie

Pam Wright

Special to The Journal

For Marc Hammond, working from home is a great way to fly.

The Bright’s Grove resident is a business developer for Ottawa-based Aviation Communications, and likes everything about working from home.

No need to battle the Capital’s ice and snow and the coffee pot is just steps away.

“It was my request,” Hammond said of the decision to telecommute from Sarnia. “My wife and I wanted to start a family and we did not want to live in a big, expensive city.”

Hammond and his wife Stefanie are telecommuters, part of a growing number of people who do their job remotely in Sarnia for lifestyle reasons. The water, weather and low housing costs here make it an attractive option.

A graduate of the Lambton College’s electronic engineering technology program, Hammond gained an entry-level position at Aviation in 1998 and lived and worked in Ottawa for 10 years.

The Corunna native came “home” in 2006.

Travel is a big part of the job and his criteria for telecommuting includes proximity to a major airport. He uses Detroit International to commute in the U.S. and Canada, selling communication systems for high-end business jets. The components are manufactured in Ottawa.

While telecommuting has worked well for Hammond and his wife Stefanie, who also is also employed by an Ottawa company, it’s not for everyone, he said.

It takes time to adjust and playing hooky isn’t an option with customized software enabling management to track employee results, said the father of two.

“It demands discipline.”

Canadian telecommuting statistics weren’t available, but in the United States, 23% of employed workers did some or all of their work at home in 2014, according to The U.S. Bureau of Labor.

Marriott myPlace Canada currently employs 230 telecommuters in the Sarnia area.

“Working from home has been very positive and (employees) absolutely love it,” said Marriott general manager Carol Kameka. Marriott vacated its brick-and-mortar operation in Sarnia two years ago, but continues to hire here with “very low turnover,” she said.

A positive work-life balance is a win-win for employees and the company, Kameka added.

Hammond said Sarnia-Lambton could be doing more to market itself as a place for telecommuters.

“It’s an opportunity to bring good, high-paying jobs into a community that is struggling to keep them,” he said.

“We see school closings and neighbourhoods that are empty. It’s a great way to bring people back home.”