President & CEO's Message

October 2015

A message from Marina R. James, President & CEO, Economic Development Winnipeg Inc.

More Businesses Are Saying “YES!” to Winnipeg

The power to choose surrounds us all. As consumers, this abundance of choice is ideal. Among other things, it lets us pick from an array of similar products that most directly addresses our needs and wants, it keeps costs down as competitors vie for market share, and it drives innovation as companies anticipate and set future trends. Are you looking for a new car? Hundreds of models exist. Want a new cell phone? The selection is almost endless. Need another pair of shoes? Get ready to be pummeled with possibilities.  

Similarly, choice exists when it comes to economic development options. For businesses looking to reduce operating costs, recruit specialized talent, reach untapped markets or reinforce strategic partnerships with key suppliers—just a few factors among dozens that typically impact the site selection process—there are almost as many places to consider as there are places. For companies, this level of choice gives them leverage in the negotiation process when it comes to tax breaks, real estate costs, training incentives, etc.

But what does that mean for the cities angling for this investment? In a sense, the company/consumer dynamic is reversed. When cities essentially act as companies seeking sales, and when companies become consumers weighing multiple options about where to spend their money, cities pitching their advantages face many of the same challenges as traditional businesses. A chief concern, for example: how can a city differentiate itself from the deafening noise of competing jurisdictions?

To their credit, many of Winnipeg’s business leaders understood that this kind of competitive landscape would get increasingly difficult to navigate without a dedicated team focused solely on proactively selling Winnipeg’s story to owners, investors and entrepreneurs all over the world—and right here at home. That’s why YES! Winnipeg was formed.

In a manner not seen in our city prior to its launch in 2011, YES! Winnipeg has been charged with pounding the proverbial pavement to put Winnipeg on the map by promoting our city directly to frontline decision-makers. An initiative within Economic Development Winnipeg Inc. (EDW), now led by Vince Barletta and a team of dedicated business development professionals, its role is to proactively seek R.E.A.L. (i.e., retention, expansion, attraction and launch) business leads and to mobilize the community effort required to turn each prospect into a reality.

Bolstered by EDW’s mandate to lead, facilitate and advance Winnipeg’s economic development efforts, YES! Winnipeg attracts new companies to the city, assists entrepreneurs in bringing their ideas to life and helps existing businesses expand. YES! Winnipeg’s mission is to grow and strengthen Winnipeg's economy by assisting in the creation of new jobs and by attracting capital investment. And right from the outset, it was agreed that this needed to be done in a way that held YES! Winnipeg accountable for its actions and allowed all successes to be measured.

To date, YES! Winnipeg has successfully assisted more than 60 clients in launching or expanding operations in Winnipeg. At maturity, these clients will create over 3,500 jobs and generate capital investment of more than $480 million.

Companies enlisting YES! Winnipeg’s assistance over the last few years have run the gamut from established multinationals to rapidly growing newer businesses primed for national and/or international expansion. From past collaborations with Canadian Tire Corporation, Manitoba Telecom Services and Buhler Industries to SkipTheDishes, Price Industries and Complex Games—and dozens more besides—YES! Winnipeg has favourably influenced our community since its inception. And although the final year of YES! Winnipeg’s inaugural five-year enterprise is not yet over, it’s safe to say the anticipated year-end results show tremendous promise for a strong finish.

With Vince at the helm, YES! Winnipeg’s business development team continues to be engaged in growing Winnipeg’s economy through the proactive identification of opportunities. It is currently pursuing over 40 active prospects totaling approximately 2,665 new jobs for the city at maturity. These retention, expansion, attraction and launch opportunities represent tremendous potential to grow Winnipeg’s economy in consequential, sustainable ways. This means YES! Winnipeg’s job is far from over—and more important than ever.

From every vantage, YES! Winnipeg has evolved into an indispensable initiative that deserves a second multiyear term. But this can’t happen without convincing Winnipeg’s business community to once again step up to the plate by contributing a significant percentage of YES! Winnipeg’s anticipated $6-million operating budget covering the five-year span commencing January 1, 2016. Right now, we’re in the midst of our Campaign 2020 investment drive, and we have high hopes for record results.    

Positive affirmations, strategic advice and viable successes have all inspired the structure of YES! Winnipeg’s next five-year mandate, where shared knowledge and functional relationship-building are priorities. From 2016 to 2020, YES! Winnipeg will operate with a detailed group of goals. It’s an ambitious action plan that builds on proven successes and adds new ideas in response to emerging trends.

These five goals include the familiar concentrations on job creation and capital investment, of course, but for the first time YES! Winnipeg will concentrate more heavily on other benefits resulting from its efforts that were previously underrepresented but that nevertheless supplement YES! Winnipeg’s impact in important ways. These key performance indicators include calculating the positive effect on government revenue derived from YES! Winnipeg’s successes, escalating its efforts to attract new businesses here and to launch new opportunities backed by local entrepreneurs, and increasing the number of business-to-business supplier requests and assessing the success rates of these transactions.

I’ve always believed one of our community’s greatest strengths stems from our ability to come together to support each other. From our country-leading charitable donations to our communal recognition that a rising tide lifts all ships, Winnipeggers old and new understand the intrinsic responsibility we have to create a bigger, better, brighter city for future generations. It’s a tangible legacy we’ve inherited from our forebears, and it’s one we must strive to pass to our children.   

Ensuring the economic vibrancy of our city is hard work, and it never simply evolves as a matter of course. It requires unending vigilance, a unifying vision and a strong voice extolling Winnipeg’s business advantages to all comers. With the ongoing financial support of Winnipeg-based businesses, and the vital roles of the municipal, provincial and federal governments, Vince and his YES! Winnipeg colleagues can continue to serve as Winnipeg’s strategic business development team—something increasing numbers of Winnipeggers realize is a key contributor to our city’s long-term economic well-being.  

To learn more about how you can help take Campaign 2020 across the finish line, click here to visit YES! Winnipeg’s dedicated web page. Together, we can showcase Winnipeg on the world stage like never before.

Let’s keep the momentum going by encouraging others to join us in saying “YES!” to Winnipeg.


Marina R. James
President & CEO
Economic Development Winnipeg Inc.