The provincial government announced the launch of a website and dates for three northern economic summits that are part of its Look North strategy at the Thompson Chamber of Commerce annual general meeting at the Meridian Hotel Feb. 21.
The website, intended to help people from outside Northern Manitoba learn more about the region and to encourage them to invest her by providing information on building a business, can be found at www.looknorth.mb.ca. The government also announced that northern economic summits will be held in The Pas April 3-4, in Thompson April 4-5 and in Churchill April 5-6.
“Northern Manitoba is home to diverse economic opportunities, unique cultural and tourism experiences, an excellent quality of life, an eager labour market and welcoming communities,” said Premier Brian Pallister in a press relase. “Whether businesses or investors are looking to move or expand an existing business, have an idea they would like to develop into an entrepreneurial opportunity or wish to build a partnership that will result in economic development and job creation, we encourage them to ‘Look North’ and investigate the untapped potential of this vast region of Manitoba.”
Growth, Enterprise and Trade Minister Cliff Cullen said Northern Manitoba holds great potential, particularly in sustainable natural resource development and greater tourism.
“Look North is an ongoing and in-depth process that will continue to engage Manitobans as we create the environment necessary for the attraction of new businesses and the expansion of existing expertise,” said Cullen, noting that the government has already committed to developing a renewed duty to consult framework with indigenous people and to include them in the process of creating it, and is also making a plan to help Manitoba First Nations increase their participation in mining in areas with high mineral potential and to reap the economic benefits that participation could bring.
Thompson MLA Kelly Bindle announced the new phase of the Look North strategy with northern economic development task force co-chairs Opaskwayak Cree Nation (OCN) Onekanew (Chief) Christian Sinclair and Manitoba Chambers of Commerce president and CEO Chuck Davidson.
“Today’s announcement is further proof that our government is committed to bringing new investment, new ideas and new opportunities to Northern Manitoba,” said Bindle. “There is much to love about this region and I am proud to be part of a team that recognizes all the north has to offer.”
“Innovation and vision are absolutely necessary as Manitoba’s north moves forward in pursuit of opportunities to expand existing sectors and develop new economy-building enterprises,” said Sinclair. “Our meetings with northern leaders, business owners and Indigenous communities have already resulted in the identification of both challenges and areas for development, and we expect to generate the kind of partnerships that have been successful in many other northern and remote regions.”
The government highlighted several successful northern businesses in its press release, including the Salisbury House restaurant that opened in Norway House in May 2015 and now employs about 40 people, as well as Teekca’s Aboriginal Boutique and Frontiers North Adventures.
“Salisbury House is very proud to have established an economic relationship with Norway House Cree Nation,” said Salisbury House of Canada Ltd. president and CEO Earl Barish. “The restaurant has been successful in bringing fresh food to Norway House and providing training and employment for the community.”
“We have a large vibrant community that is full of opportunity and mutually beneficial partnerships are key to community development,” said Norway House Cree Nation Chief Ron Evans. “Our goal is to facilitate new business relationships that are both profitable for business owners and benefit the community. We believe that our community’s future success depends on a growing business sector that provides new services and opportunities for jobs, experience and training.”
Teekca’s Aboriginal Boutique, established in Norway House Cree Nation in 1997 by CEO Marilyn Tanner-Spence of Waywayseecappo First Nation and Fox Lake Cree Nation Chief Walter Spence, now has stores in Thompson and The Forks that also offer gifts crafted by indigenous artists and artisans.
“The north offers so much in terms of opportunity for businesses to grow or get started,” said Tanner-Spence. “You really have to look at what’s missing, what do people travel out for, how can you fill that void? The ideas can start out small but can grow into something bigger.”
Frontiers North Adventures CEO John Gunter said he hoped other entrepreneurs could follow in his family’s footsteps.
“Through the Look North strategy, we hope that others will discover what we’ve known for more than 30 years, that the northern part of this province is full of opportunity,” he said.
A northern tourism strategy led by Travel Manitoba will contribute to the
Look North strategy by focusing on Northern Manitoba’s tourism potential.
“There is significant potential to grow the number of visitors to Manitoba’s north for the kind of immersive experiences that travellers are seeking today,” said Travel Manitoba president and CEO Colin Ferguson. “Beyond the ‘bucket list’ experiences of polar bear viewing and beluga whale watching, we’re seeing greater demand for things like viewing the northern lights, remote fly-in fishing experiences and other authentic northern experiences, particularly in our international markets.”
The premier says past approaches to northern development have not succeeded and that creativity is required to help Northern Manitoba realize its full potential.
“The need for economic diversification and development throughout Manitoba’s north has been ignored for too long and short-term fixes have not prompted sustainable development,” said the premier. “Northern Manitoba is a region with the potential to contribute in previously unimagined ways to our province’s economy. Look North will engage all Manitobans in a consultative process that will encourage the creativity and vision necessary if we are to unleash the true potential of our province’s north.”