Dayna Spiring reflects on her time at Economic Development Winnipeg
When Dayna Spiring walked into her office as the new president and CEO of Economic Development Winnipeg in March 2016, she was shocked to see a large stack of file folders on her desk, none of which were labelled.
As she surveyed the thousands of pages in front of her, she thought, “What am I getting myself into?”
She discovered quickly that while the people sitting at the various desks were part of the economic development team or the tourism team, most of them had staked out their own turf. They were approaching the organization’s work through the lens of their respective audiences only.
“All the work we do—whether that’s attracting visitors to the city, bringing in meetings and conventions, or working with our business community to grow and secure new investment—it’s all connected and we thrive when we collaborate,” says Spiring. “The end goal is to support our economy and contribute to a strong future for our city, and we can do that more effectively when we’re communicating and looking at opportunities from all angles.”
So, she decided to figure out where EDW could have maximum impact and initiate change, which clarified where the team should focus its resources.
“We recognized that we could do better and be more impactful. That gave us a shot of momentum,” she says. “The job for all of us was to put coins in the jar. If we’re not doing that, we’re not spending our time on the right stuff. That was a big culture shift.”
Spiring has no shame in admitting her team sought out best practices and borrowed various strategies from other economic development organizations across the country.
Calgary, for example, compiled the best data, Montreal attracted the best talent, Edmonton had successfully integrated tourism into its operations and Halifax was the best at fostering private sector investment.
“We made no bones about the fact that we didn’t need to reinvent the wheel,” she says. “We consulted with these organizations about their experiences and learned from them.”
One hallmark of Spiring’s tenure has been a sense of humour in much of EDW’s external communications and videos. For example, its recent annual meeting featured a video of staff as LEGO people, including Spiring, explaining how economic development works through the story of an ice cream factory and how it boosted the local economy.
“To tell Winnipeg’s story and move the needle on decision-making, we need to pique peoples’ interest, which means we have to be entertaining. We look to pop culture for ways to get people interested in hearing that story,” she says.
Spiring is confident she’s leaving EDW in a much better spot than she found it.
“I don’t think our organization has ever been stronger. We’ve built a team of Winnipeg experts and they’re some of the best in the country at what they do. Our revenue has doubled since I started and our staff has nearly doubled, too,” she says.
The list of accomplishments is long, but Spiring says the highlights are elevating EDW’s profile locally and nationally through events, media coverage and designations. From the Whiteout Street Parties during Winnipeg Jets playoff games to landing the 112th Grey Cup game slated for November 2025 at IG Field, special events that draw national attention help put Winnipeg on the map.
Meanwhile, designations like ‘Most intelligent community in the world’ (2021) and Time magazine’s one of the ‘World’s Greatest Places’, are cause for celebration. In 2016, travel writer Alyssa Schwarzt penned an article for Vogue Magazine about Winnipeg, “A Trip to Canada’s Prairies—Vaguely Exotic, Totally Obscure, and an Absolute Must-Visit Destination,” and three years later, Winnipeg landed at No. 8 on Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel list. Manitoba ranks No. 8 in the list for best regions.
“These titles are high profile. They all contribute to our ability to attract investment and people to come work and live here,” she says.
Of course, it wasn’t all days of wine and roses. Spiring says not every deal goes your way and some companies will choose to boost their presence in other markets. But when you’ve got multiple stakeholders all pulling in the same direction, you’re going to punch above your weight.
“What we’ve been able to do better than before is work as a team. We’ve had the provincial government, the City of Winnipeg and in some areas, the federal government [work with us]. If we continue doing that with everybody singing from the same song sheet, Winnipeg will win more than our fair share. That will be an incredible legacy,” she says.