Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Winnipeg Business in Heartlandia

Talks have resumed around the development of an economic corridor, dubbed "Heartlandia," between Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Northwestern Ontario, South Dakota, North Dakota and Minnesota.

Combined, the region accounts for around $400 billion dollars in regional GDP which equates to 25% of Canada's overall GDP. "There is a need for opportunities to interact on a personal basis," says Klaus Thiessen, CEO of the Grand Forks Regional Economic Development Corps. "There are all sorts of natural commercial and cultural ties in the region. The idea is to do it in a more structured way."

Though the provincial government has yet to confirm any part in Heartlandia, Premiere Gary Doer has made it a major priority during his tenure to build strong relationships with the respective governors and premieres. Says Riva Harrison of Manitoba Trade, "The premier's style is to be very engaged with governors in other states. He has very strong alliances with a number of them. It is a way to get things done and generate business and that is ultimately the goal. Any proposed alliance would always be considered in an open mind."

Business, academic and community leaders in Manitoba and North Dakota got together last fall in Grand Forks to discuss the potential development of Heartlandia, and the plan is to have a second summit, this time in Winnipeg. It is believed that the development of Winnipeg's inland port is a major motivation to talks being renewed between the economic regions.

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