President & CEO's Message

A Message from Dayna Spiring (November 2016)

Economic Development in Winnipeg Demands Leadership, Collaboration and Focus

A common theme running through all levels of government, all types of businesses, and every academic institution or industry association worth their salt can be summed up in one word: accountability.

Whether they represent the people, sell to the people, or educate and inform the people, conscientious leaders aren’t afraid to be held accountable for their actions. The decisions they make are rooted in a firm belief the path they’ve chosen will result in the most successful outcomes possible. After almost eight months on the job as president and CEO of Economic Development Winnipeg (EDW), I’ve started to reset the corporation for exactly this reason, and I welcome the accountability my actions will bring.

When I arrived at EDW in March, I spent most of my first 100 days listening, learning and asking questions. I talked to politicians, investors, business owners, industry experts and my new staff to understand how the agency’s component parts (economic development, business expansion and attraction, and tourism) impact our city and province.

I discovered each aspect of EDW could lay claim to impressive successes. The economic development team’s knowledge of business and industry groups led to consequential relationships across all sectors. YES! Winnipeg’s attraction and expansion work facilitated thousands of new jobs and capital investment totaling about $550 million. Tourism Winnipeg’s focus on promoting our world-class attractions and bringing special events, meetings and conventions to the city helped feed its economy and celebrate its unique appeal.

But I also discovered something else during those first few months. Viewed as a whole, EDW was not yet greater than the sum of its parts. It was clear to me the exceptional talents working at EDW could register even more successes if they were restructured into a single, more powerful force, not three separate silos operating independently.

This convergence resulted in my creation of three new teams, each of which necessarily requires collaboration with the other two to achieve optimal results. Our market intelligence team does the homework, and it provides the rationale for everything EDW now does and chooses not to do anymore. Led by senior vice-president Greg Dandewich, this team’s job is to comb through reams of research and data to define Winnipeg’s value proposition within each sector of our economy.

Equipped with this knowledge, our sales team—consisting of business experts led by YES! Winnipeg’s Vince Barletta and tourism experts led by Karen Goossen—will work together to identify the most relevant leads to pursue. From companies contemplating a Winnipeg relocation, expansion or launch to representatives searching for an ideal host city for industry-specific conferences, association meetings or sporting events, EDW’s sales team will collaborate on the best ways to sell key decision-makers on our city.

Imagine a scenario where EDW’s tourism experts work in concert with its business experts to concentrate on opportunities within the aerospace sector. If YES! Winnipeg is wooing a certain aerospace firm to set up shop in Winnipeg, for example, is there an industry conference this company is known to attend whose location scouts should be approached by Tourism Winnipeg? Conversely, what windfalls might result if YES! Winnipeg were connected directly with promising leads at the meetings and conventions Tourism Winnipeg has already attracted? This is the direction EDW is heading now, and I’m confident our new structure will yield better results.

But EDW’s market intelligence and sales teams need a suitable framework for their efforts. Data and statistics must be woven into a larger contextual fabric in a way that best highlights Winnipeg’s principal advantages for the salespeople charged with making calls and knocking on doors. In short, Winnipeg’s story must be defined and communicated, and that’s why I’ve created a marketing and branding team. Led by senior vice-president Chantal Sturk-Nadeau, its role is to find the right words and the right places to share our successes and champion our city.

With EDW’s three integrated teams now working together to articulate a common vision, I chose to endorse this new alliance with a fresh set of logos. For the first time, EDW, Tourism Winnipeg and YES! Winnipeg all have similar corporate identities, accentuating the idea that EDW’s three brands coalesce into a single, unified agency charged with ensuring everyone knows Winnipeg is open for business.

This is where EDW now finds itself after my second 100 or so days at the helm: we’ve restructured, refreshed our look and even relocated to the iconic Richardson Building into an eight-floor space far more conducive to encouraging cooperation. But one more “re“ arguably trumps these three, and it’s something I’m especially passionate about: EDW needs to refocus.

I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, “You can’t be all things to all people.” EDW simply isn’t equipped to play in every sandbox or swim in every pool. We do what we do very well, but we need to stop spreading ourselves too thin. Our efforts need to be concentrated in places where we can have the greatest impact, which requires prioritizing our resources in a way that means saying no to some opportunities while saying yes to others. It won’t be easy, and it won’t always be popular. But it’s the right thing to do.

All jobs and all capital investments aren’t created equal, and it’s a mistake to think and act otherwise. When faced with two companies vying for EDW’s limited resources, I’ll always pick the one with the greatest potential to move the economic needle in the most meaningful way for our city. If forced to choose, will I work to employ those with advanced academic degrees over those with high-school educations? Yes. And will I do what I can to promote aerospace, advanced manufacturing and information technology over the hospitality industry? Yes. Every time.

All industries add value; however, not all industries need EDW’s help to be successful. If Winnipeg can attract specialized firms that employ highly educated, well-paid workers, these other support-level jobs will follow. EDW can no longer afford to be distracted by low-hanging fruit at the expense of harder-to-reach but lasting sustenance. 

EDW’s reset is not unlike the winds of change blowing at City Hall, and it partly parallels the value-for-money mindset evident within the new Manitoba government. We have a mayor who believes in and devotes time to advocating Winnipeg’s business friendliness, and we have a provincial leader who for the first time in a long time—17 years by my count—is intent on creating real economic growth. I’m in regular contact with Growth, Enterprise and Trade Minister Cliff Cullen and Mayor Brian Bowman and their teams to create alignment, define priorities and spearhead greater collaboration.

EDW is ready to be the boots on the ground. We are ready to serve, and we are ready to lead. Together with our municipal and provincial partners, EDW must leverage the city’s increasing momentum and define the strategies and game plans that will enable us to win across multiple fronts. If I can help accomplish this during my tenure, EDW will have justified the faith placed in it by public- and private-sector stakeholders.

I know this is the right path for the corporation as we address an atypical tipping point in our city’s history, and I look forward to being held accountable in the days and months ahead.  

Sincerely,

Dayna Spiring
President & CEO
Economic Development Winnipeg Inc.