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.

Winnipeg's Human Rights Museum Losing Public Confidence

Still three years from it's first visitor, the Canadian Museum for Human Rights is already millions short on the budget required for both its capital costs and its annual operating needs. The museum has reported they need a minimum of $5.2 million in operating funds from Ottawa this year alone to keep construction and development going.

The federal government has already responded to say they would not provide additional funding on top of the $100 million towards construction and the approximately $21.7 million required in annual operating costs.

Museum spokeswoman Angela Cassie has provided little direction as to what the real number is in respect to the funds required for both continued construction and operating costs. "There is no total figure yet. It's difficult right now when you don't know how much it will cost to heat a building in 2012." Isn't this a requirement when establishing the initial budget? Inflation is taught in Economics 101.

My guess is that a lot of taxpayers and donors are wondering just when they'll be tapped to foot the bill. The museum is doing themselves a great injustice in gaining momentum for what should be a world class facility into what is appearing to be a major lesson in poor financial planning. This stigma seems like its becoming a stain on the Asper legacy, one I hope they can reconcile before Winnipeggers and Winnipeg business completely give up on this global attraction.