President & CEO's Message

A Message from Dayna Spiring (May 2017)

The Way Forward for Economic Development in Winnipeg: Collaboration Reinforced by Relevant Data

In early May, Economic Development Winnipeg (EDW) hosted its annual general meeting to a packed room at the Richardson Conference Centre. In addressing attendees, I emphasized two central themes that have motivated me during my first year as EDW’s president and CEO: first, collaborating more effectively with the municipal and provincial governments, which is essential in a province the size of Manitoba; and second, becoming the owners of Winnipeg’s value proposition and the experts at collecting, assessing and sharing applicable data with stakeholders. These are not mutually exclusive pursuits. EDW’s ability to effect change depends on the successful application of these two goals in the years ahead.

When I assumed the leadership of EDW in March 2016, Mayor Brian Bowman had only been on the job for about 17 months, with Premier Brian Pallister subsequently elected less than two months into my tenure. Take a moment to consider the implications of this turn of events. We had a relatively new mayor and a brand new premier, both of whom espoused a business-centric platform promising real change for Winnipeggers and Manitobans. This revitalized political scene resonated with me and others in the business community, but more than that it presented an opportunity for me to demonstrate EDW’s value to two of the corporation’s key stakeholders—the city and the province—in a way that could help both governments deliver on their respective but not dissimilar mandates.

I was under no illusions with respect to EDW’s influence up to that point. While my arrival at EDW revealed that vital work was underway within each of its three brands (EDW, Tourism Winnipeg and YES! Winnipeg), it’s accurate to say too few people, politicians among them, understood the overall contribution EDW was making—and perhaps more importantly, could make in the future—to Winnipeg’s economy. I’m a firm believer in EDW’s raison d'être, and it was clear to me a big part of my role would involve educating stakeholders about what we’re doing now and what we should be doing moving forward.

Throughout the balance of 2016, via meetings at the highest levels of the municipal and provincial governments, I began to get an increasingly clearer view of why EDW, the city and the province must work collaboratively to promote economic opportunities within Winnipeg and the broader capital region. Comprised of 11 rural municipalities and the city of Winnipeg, the capital region accounts for more than 61 per cent of the provincial population and almost 68 per cent of Manitoba’s economic activity. Winnipeg is a hub city unlike anywhere else in Canada, and it’s incumbent upon those of us working on its behalf to consider the bigger picture. A common and renewed sense of purpose unites my team, as well as my city and provincial counterparts, and we’re starting to make good things happen for Winnipeg and Manitoba.

EDW’s AGM validated that the strategy sessions held in 2016 and early 2017 were having the intended effect. I reiterated the mayor’s recent decision to have EDW lead an on-demand business advisory team comprised of industry and public-policy experts whose membership would change depending on the issue at hand. And with respect to the province, I made mention of the new alignment that will see EDW mirror the province’s five sectors of focus: aerospace, advanced manufacturing, agribusiness, ICT and digital new media. Unlike EDW’s past approach, which championed 10 key sectors, our limited resources can’t continue to be spread too thin. These five sectors, together with promoting tourism to our city, represent the greatest potential to move the economic needle in a positive direction.  

Capping off the formal proceedings following my remarks, both Mayor Brian Bowman and Growth, Enterprise and Trade Minister Cliff Cullen joined me on stage to take part in a panel discussion moderated by entrepreneur extraordinaire Michael Legary. We covered considerable ground in a short time, but the subtext was clear: the three of us—and the entities we represent (i.e., the city, the province and Winnipeg’s leading economic development agency)—are working together in a way that hasn’t happened in this city for a long, long time.

What does this mean for EDW? Ultimately, it means we need to deliver like never before. We need to be the boots on the ground. We need to support consequential economic development in key (not all) areas. And we need to anticipate challenges and propose solutions. The crux of how this will be accomplished lies in collecting, managing and sharing market intelligence with our stakeholders. To this end, a major internal initiative in recent months has been the complete overhaul of EDW’s institutional memory and current information-gathering practices. How we accumulate, categorize, store, retrieve and disseminate data is about to be transformed.

EDW is set to begin working in a whole new way that will exponentially improve its ability to be resourceful, relevant and responsive. Truth be told, this wasn’t the most exciting project with which I’ve been associated, but its critical importance to the future success of EDW was clear to me at the outset and only became clearer as the weeks and months progressed. Winnipeggers will increasingly begin to take note of EDW’s efforts, and a big reason why is rooted within this admittedly unglamorous pursuit.

No other public or private entity working within the economic development space in the city—or the province, for that matter—is as equipped or as capable as EDW to serve in this capacity. With expertise stemming from interactions with businesses operating in multiple areas of the local economy through our YES! Winnipeg and Tourism Winnipeg sales groups, as well as from the detailed, up-to-date information gathered by our market intelligence group, EDW can now embrace a responsibility it arguably should have accepted years ago.

But that was then, and this is now. Given the new spirit of co-operation, I believe the time is right for EDW to help facilitate important windfalls for our city and province in the coming years.

Sincerely,

Dayna Spiring
President & CEO
Economic Development Winnipeg Inc.