President & CEO's Message

March 2015

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

Workers Are Only as Good as Their Tools (and a Website Is a Tool)

I think tools matter, and finding the right ones can make all the difference. Give me a better tool, and I’ll give you a better product (or do a better job, or close more sales or whatever). Ever tried to tackle a project with an ill-suited implement? At best, it’s way harder and usually takes far too long; at worst, the results are wildly ineffectual.

EDW uses lots of tools in its work to attract foreign investment, retain and expand businesses, build capacity and increase tourism visitation. In economic development specifically, some tools are more useful (read: important) than others. The research we unearthed, complemented with some common sense, told us that an effective website is a top priority in a profession like ours. Done well, it showcases a city’s strengths, it introduces users to applicable experts and it (mostly) levels the playing field between jurisdictions with seemingly unlimited resources and those consistently asked to do more with less.

From late 2013 through early 2014, key EDW personnel were tasked with reenvisioning a completely new website. Simply stated, EDW’s revamped website is a triumph. It’s the culmination of over six months of work that involved surveying existing best practices, authoring copy and creating new online tools to better serve EDW’s various users—which very deliberately include local business owners and skilled workers.

While EDW’s new website helps us do our job better, we’ve always appreciated that economic development works best when multiple stakeholders are involved. Whether you own a business or work for one, we want you to know that our website is built as much for you as it is for the more conspicuous players in the economic development game (site selectors, international c-suite executives, real estate brokers, etc.). Without a strong local economy—in short, without people like you—we might be tempted to throw in the towel and surrender. But this is Winnipeg, and we don’t do that around here.

If you haven’t already done so, I urge you to explore our new website a bit. I’m confident you’ll find information about Winnipeg you can use to make your job a little easier. Our site is arguably the most feature-rich, densely populated repository of Winnipeg-centric information in cyberspace. And if you can’t find what you’re looking for, stop searching and give us a call at 204.954.1997. We’re always available to help.

So what does the site offer, and how might this information be useful to you? Consider the following highlights:

1. Sector Profiles: Winnipeg’s diverse and stable economy boasts 10 key sectors. Ranging from about 30 to 70 pages each, these 10 profiles concentrate on a given sector and dive deeply into how these distinct yet complementary ecosystems operate in our city. For a higher-level overview, you’ll also find shorter briefs for most sectors in the same convenient spot. Check out the advanced manufacturing profile here.

Why? Chances are, whatever industry you’re in—or thinking of entering—you’ll find comparative data, competitive landscapes and opportunity/innovation gaps within the most relevant profile(s) that will help identify ways you can maximize your success.

2. Videos: Hosted by Peter Jordan, EDW’s website showcases about 20 videos that predominantly span two series, GROW in WINNIPEG and WHY WINNIPEG for BUSINESS? Whether they’re spotlighting a local company’s success or talking about Winnipeg’s overall value proposition for investors (e.g., quality of life, low business costs, and location and transportation advantages), these videos add a fresh perspective on Winnipeg’s business community and can be viewed here and here.

Why? For starters, Peter is supremely entertaining. Check out EDW’s newest video about Winnipeg’s creative industries sector here, where Peter is turned into an avatar for most of the video. It’s classic. On a more serious note, these videos capture real business leaders talking about their successes—and why Winnipeg continues to make sense for them as the best place to operate. If you’re a recruiter, for example, you’ll want your prospects to take a look at a few of these videos. They capture our local ‘can do’ spirit in a way no articles ever could.

3. Company Profiles: Divided into applicable sectors, these short one-page write-ups succinctly summarize some of Winnipeg’s major employers. When was the company founded? How many employees work there? What lines of business are pursued? Who’s the CEO? What are its annual revenues? All of this information and much more is presented within the succinct snapshots of these Winnipeg-based industry leaders.

Why? These profiles are proof positive that Winnipeggers can find world leaders right here at home. Are you looking to switch jobs? Do you want to know who the major players are in your industry and why they continue to attract success? Read these summaries. They’re short enough to whet your appetite and long enough to help you decide if Winnipeg should make your shortlist. Check out Pollard Banknote’s profile here.

4. Incentives: The Government of Manitoba is committed to helping businesses succeed. This section of EDW’s website offers an introduction to the many programs and tax breaks available to both start-ups and established companies looking to grow. Click here for more information.

Why? Navigating the various incentives that may apply to your business can be a daunting task, but EDW and its YES! Winnipeg initiative want to make it easy for you. If you’re looking to launch or expand a business in the city, we’re here to help. We want your business to have the best chance to succeed, and we’ll share our expertise and facilitate the application process with the relevant government contacts, so you can do what you do best: build your business.

5. News Stories, Sitelines and Winnipeg Economic Highlights: EDW’s extensive news archive, found here, dates back to 2011 and features the most noteworthy local business stories that have appeared in Canada’s media each month. Sitelines is an e-newsletter authored in-house that is designed to capture newsworthy investment-related activity occurring throughout Winnipeg. Read the latest volume here. And Winnipeg Economic Highlights provides a snapshot of Winnipeg’s economy based on several key performance indicators, which are then compared to previous quarters as well as to the Canadian average. This database dates back to 2003 and can be accessed here.

Why? Knowledge is power, and EDW wants to equip you with as much information about Winnipeg’s business climate as possible. With powerful search and archive functions, it’s easier than ever to research what’s been happening within specific industry sectors here over the last several years.

In addition to the five key elements introduced above, EDW’s new website also boasts a series of new and innovative modules to help work get done more efficiently, including a reliable report builder and a searchable, categorized document library housing the hundreds of reports, profiles and corporate publications featured on the site.

As a welcome validation of our achievement, last October EDW received the lone gold Excellence in Economic Development Award from the International Economic Development Council (IEDC) in the category of general purpose website for communities with populations greater than 500,000. A gold award represents the highest recognition possible within each of IEDC’s various award categories.

Since launching in April 2014, EDW’s new website has outperformed its predecessor in multiple areas, according quantitative data gleaned from Google Analytics. In the first quarter of 2015, the website experienced a 37 per cent increase in total visitation over the same period a year ago. Even more impressive, selected areas of the website revealed exceptional growth: the Resources section, which replaced the Data Centre on the previous site, experienced a surge of new visits and grew more than 1,325 per cent in a quarter-to-quarter comparison; the Why Winnipeg? section experienced growth of 333 per cent compared to the analogous Live in Winnipeg section on the previous site; and the Key Industries section, which replaced Strategic Sectors, recorded a 157 per cent spike in visitations.

Although there’s more work to be done—so keep an eye out for additional website-related enhancements happening throughout 2015—EDW’s new site is making its mark in a host of consequential ways with an array of stakeholders. Remember: workers are only as good as their tools. With our new website, we know we’ve got a great tool to help us do our own work. And we sincerely hope you now have a great tool to help you do yours.

Let’s keep moving Winnipeg forward.

___________________
Marina R. James MBA
President & CEO