Monday, February 23, 2009

Manitoba Homecoming 2010 Well Timed

With the stable economy being enjoyed in Manitoba, Manitoba Homecoming 2010 seems like a timely event. Why not try and attract the starry-eyed ex-pats back to their home province instead of continuing to reside in someone's garage north of Calgary hungry for oil? Considering the economic climate in Alberta and Ontario - home to many former Manitobans - this may just be the bait to lure them back. If not for good, at least for long enough to soak them for some much welcomed tourism dollars.

The fact that Kevin Walters is Executive Director of Manitoba Homecoming 2010 provides hope that the lofty goals of turning a $2.5 million dollar investment into $30 million dollars of new tourism revenue may be possible. Possible, but tough based on your average $10 social ticket.
Walters led Winnipeg's Juno Awards bid in 2005 and was integral in organizing the Canadian Country Music Awards just last year. I like that Walters is realistic as well, "I'm not naive enough to think any single event would bring Manitobans back," he said - "But when you get enough of these events and package them you can accomplish (something)." Something...? I'm not exactly sure what that something is, but anything would be more than the brand Spirited Energy generated - or should I say cost.

I don't know if a few free concerts will be enough to bring 50,000 visitors and 100,000 room-nights to Manitoba hotels, but it makes sense to try. We have a lot of positives leaning in our favour right now as a province. If we can get a few thousand ex-pats to spend a day at the Forks listening to live music, reconnecting with old friends and remembering all the good Winnipeg, and the province have to offer, it just might be enough to pull the heart strings hard enough to bring them back to relocate.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Manitoba Business Shows Leadership in Diversity

Alberta who?

The Alberta tar sands are looking more like quicksand these days. The Alberta government originally projected six months ago they'd have an $8.5-billion budget surplus this year; they now admit they'll have to kick in $1 billion of extra cash to avoid being in the red. Alberta, most recently the Provincial juggernaut in Canada because of their abundance of oil, are now in a recession based purely on an inability to diversify.

Like any smart business person knows, one of the biggest mistakes you can make is to have your company rely on one client to provide the majority of your revenue. The minute the client cancels, you can pretty much say goodnight to your business as a whole. Running a province is about as big a business as you can operate, and due to poor management during their boom period, many Albertans will now find themselves a casualty of government's failure to see past their short-term riches.

I think Alberta NDP Leader Brian Mason said it best, "For years this government has put their friends in the oil and gas industry before ordinary Albertans and their families," Mason said. "Today we're paying the cost."

Manitoba on the other hand is well-diversified across many industries, and we are well-positioned to weather the economic storm. Of course, we're not untouchable, however we have been able to avoid the yo-yoing that occurs when too dependant on one industry.

Imagine for a a moment that Winnipeg business was as reliant on Canada's leading media company CanWest Global as Albertans are on the oil and gas sector. With reports of looming bankruptcy, and the potential of the Asper family losing company control, Winnipeggers would soon be moving West cheering Green this labour day weekend.

So for all you ex-pat Manitobans with big dreams of big money in Alberta I say this ... you always have a home in Friendly Manitoba. See you soon!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Winnipeg Business Is Poised to Dominate Canada

There I said it; the title - "Winnipeg Business Is Poised to Dominate Canada." Why not? Everything is pointing in that direction.

I could go on.

This is the time to put personal agendas aside both publicly and privately, and live-up to the potential that our geographic location provides us.

Who cares about who gets the credit? And if you do... you should ask yourself why?

I've met with a lot of Winnipeg businesses over the last year, and its been an eye-opener. We should be proud of our private sector. There are a lot of sharp minds in this city, and the most exciting part about the people I've met is their will to take risks. I mean really... everyone knows Winnipeggers love to gamble.

The investments in physical infrastructure that are happening in Winnipeg are exciting; but there is a missing piece that is being unfulfilled. The infrastructure for marketing these developments.

The infrastructure for how we will send these ideas to the world is equally important to how we complete them physically. In order to "sell Winnipeg to the world" we'll need to invest dollars into laying the foundation for our virtual infrastructure, webbing all the entities into a common voice across the internet - so we are visible globally.

If the City of Winnipeg and the private sector can meld these two elements seamlessly, we will truly have a product and a stage on which to market it.

Winnipeg...its time we stomp on the Vancouver's and the Toronto's. You know if they could do it to us they would.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Winnipeg a Living City

I recently watched an interesting documentary this weekend on CBC called Living City: A Critical Guide. It was hosted by Christopher Hume, a provocative urban critic and columnist for the Toronto Star. In the special, he travels by train from Halifax to Vancouver, stopping at all the major cities, highlighting the projects and passionate people who will shape urban life in Canada in the coming decade. Hume also gives the viewer a firsthand look at what's wrong with Canada's aging infrastructure, failing mass transportation and overall lack of political will.

Of course being a Winnipegger, I was most interested as the train neared my home town. Before heading into the commercial break leading into the part about Winnipeg, Hume says this "I want to see what happens when a city dreams, but its ambitions falter." Needless to say this statement got me quite worked up - I couldn't help but agree to some level - though I refuse to be defined by this statement.

Hume goes on to talk about how Winnipeg business and the economy were booming in the late 1800's - a time when we were known as the "Chicago of the North." We were leaders in transportation and infrastucture, supported by our geographic location. When Hume arrives he stands outside the doors of the VIA Rail depot, and upon staring at our downtown asks "where is everybody?"

The piece was quite negative in its view of Winnipeg, but was factual. The positive aspect of the documentary was the review of the new MB Hydro Building, and the leadership role they are taking in Energy Engineering.

I don't want to spoil the documentary for those that want to watch the special online. For any Winnipegger or Winnipeg business, it truly is a must see. A piece that should motivate and guide the way we think about urban development in the decades ahead.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Winnipeg Business 2.0? I doubt it.

Here is a excerpt from the recent Mayor's State of the City address I read. Let me stress that I read it.

"Globally, governments who want to serve their citizens better are learning to reset
the ways they do business... And this Spring, I will officially launch the public input component to this initiative through a Symposium - A Sustainable Winnipeg... We will introduce effective methods of engagement such as an Interactive website, Web TV, blogs, roundtable discussions, and scenario visioning workshops."

Hmm... I may feel more confident in Winnipeg government and business embracing the opportunities that technology and the internet bring if they could have - at the very least - provided a digital video of the speech. Both the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce website and City of Winnipeg website both have the .pdf. It's great to be able to read it over in detail, but... come on - would it have been so tough to actually post the video to capture some of the emotion?

Winnipeg Business 2.0 - I don't think so.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Winnipeg Business Can Learn From Maple Leaf Foods

You can't help but applaud the job that Michael McCain - President and CEO of Maple Leaf Foods - has done since last years listeria outbreak. With the company facing a national image crisis, McCain has been able to turn a corporate nightmare into standard business practice.

From the t.v. commercials to the full page newspaper ads, McCain has taken full accountability for the problem that occurred; and has managed to spin the entire issue into a corporate strength. Listeria - from everything I've read - seems to be an inevitable occurrence. The problem has been kept under wraps in the industry until last year's outbreak. Now - in addition to a public apology and open door policy to the press on the matter - McCain drives ahead in waters not normally ventured by big corporations - honesty. Huh? Who would've thunk it?

I quote "The greatest risk to the Canadian food-safety system is the multitude of Canadian plants which do not find positive test results simply because they don't test adequately. If you test, you will find and you can eradicate with the proper protocols. If you don't test you won't find, but there will be no eradication which is the real food safety risk in this country."

Need I say more? What will be interesting is seeing how many competitors will begin reporting listeria cases of their own - and if they don't - what the public opinion will be?

So Winnipeg Business... what dirty secrets do you hide? What industry ghosts are lurking in your darkest corners, away from the public light? Can honesty position your company ahead of your competition? Consumers are only getting smarter, which is directly related to the ease in information the internet has provided. You can run, but you can't hide. Maybe its time to to put your anxieties to rest and be open with what worries you the most about your service to Winnipeggers? What's worse being honest or being discovered?