Winnipeg is starting to lose reputation as wholesale town
Fri May 18 2007
By Martin Cash
According to some, the first four years of Destination Winnipeg's existence has coincided with the city starting to lose its reputation as a wholesale town.
"That's a good thing," said Bob Silver, outgoing chairman of the city's economic development agency. "I hope Winnipeg becomes a retail city. In five years' time I hope people are still talking about rising house prices because that will mean a stronger economy."
The annual general meeting of Destination Winnipeg is typically an occasion for feel-good pats on the back to staff, volunteers and the city fathers.
But at this year's event on Thursday, the organization had an impressive number of achievements to point to, not least of which is rising real estate prices in the last few years after a decade of no growth.
Destination Winnipeg, whose responsibility is to market the city and help facilitate economic development and tourism, is funded primarily by the city and the province in equal portions. Its annual budget was increased by five per cent last year to $3.2 million.
Silver (who owns a substantial share of the Winnipeg Free Press) said achievements in the city have come about because of a collective will to get them done and suggested that the city will need more of that in the future.
He reminded the audience about naysayers who denigrated the idea of Esplanade Riel, the construction of the MTS Centre and Waterfront Drive, noting that all of them are now seen as significant landmarks in the city.
"We spent so much time worrying about the cost of a toilet (on the Esplanade Riel)," Silver said. "It's time to get off the toilet and start talking about the bridge."
The agency has completed its first three year plan recording growth in the number of visitors to the city and the number of meetings and conventions between 2003 and 2006.
Silver, who is stepping down as chairman of the board in August, said the agency does not take credit for the city's achievements.
"It is a continuum," he said. "We are on a track and we keep going."
That track has seen the city host the 2005 Juno Awards, the 2006 Grey Cup and the 2007 World Women's Hockey Championship, all of which Destination Winnipeg helped organize.
The city already has the 2008 Canadian Country Music Awards and the 2008 Tim Horton's Briars curling tournament lined up.
Construction of the Manitoba Hydro tower on Portage Avenue and development of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights are seen as important events for the city to work with.
Stuart Duncan, CEO of Destination Winnipeg, said what's even more important than past successes are excellent new opportunities on the horizon.
"The Canadian Human Rights Museum is the kind of attraction that could generate a lot of attention for group tours to the city," he said.
For instance, the student and youth tour business is worth $10 billion annually in Canada. He said the new museum in Winnipeg is an ideal draw for that market.
What a difference
three years make
In 2003 Destination Winnipeg set out a three- year plan to help grow the Winnipeg economy. Comparing levels in 2003 to 2006 shows significant growth in the city.
2003 to 2006 increases
GDP 8.2 per cent
Retail sales 22.3 per cent
Building permit values 32.2 per cent
spending 11.6 per cent
income (per capita) 11.7 per cent
Population 1.4 per cent
Employment 3.2 per cent
-- Source: Statistics Canada and
Conference Board of Canada
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