There are benefits to being Canada’s “middle province”—benefits that have lured some of the nation’s leaders in the transportation and logistics industry to Manitoba and solidified its position as a “transportation powerhouse”.
A key factor is CentrePort Canada, North America’s largest trimodal inland port and the only trimodal inland port in Canada, which is home to seven of Canada’s Top 100 for-hire trucking companies, and two of the Top 10 trucking firms in the country.
Its strategic location at the hub of multiple transportation corridors, coupled with Manitoba’s strengths in trade and transportation, make it an attractive location for companies looking to grow their presence in North America.
The roster of big-name players including Bison Transport, Canada Cartage, 4Tracks Ltd., JR Hall Transport, Len Dubois Trucking, Freightliner Manitoba and Rosenau Transport Ltd. expanding their operations here is evidence of the boom the industry has seen in recent years.
Rosenau Transport Ltd., which owns one of Western Canada’s largest transportation networks, expanded their Manitoba operations in 2019, adding to their long-time Brandon operation to include a new 71,000 square foot transportation and warehouse facility in the province’s capital —a decision that made sound business sense for the family-run firm, says Ken Rosenau, President.
“Winnipeg was the last piece of our service puzzle,” he says. “We had grown so much that we had to move three times in five years, and we could probably add another 70,000 square feet and fill it in no time.”
Convenience, and quick and easy access to all trade quarters, specifically the US market, made the decision all the more appealing, he adds.
According to the Manitoba Trucking Association (MTA), approximately 400,000 commercial trucks cross the Manitoba-US border each year, providing access to a population of 100 million within a 24-hour drive.
While Rosenau and his contemporaries have enjoyed the surge in success, it hasn’t come without a set of challenges in recent years—the obvious impacts of COVID-19 for starters, but also never-before-seen driver shortages, supply chain issues, and skyrocketing fuel prices. Like so many others, the transportation industry has been hit by inflation with no signs of it slowing down.
In 2020, CN, which transports $250 billion worth of goods, made a strategic investment of $105 million to support growing demand and enable supply chains.
“Recent global events have highlighted the importance of keeping supply chains open and ensuring farmers and producers can transport their products to domestic and global markets, safely and reliably,” said The Honourable Dan Vandal, Minister of Northern Affairs, Government of Canada, and Member of Parliament for Saint Boniface–Saint Vital in a media release announcing CN’s investment.
“That’s why the Government of Canada continues to invest in the National Trade Corridor Fund and the Rail Safety Improvement Program through Transport Canada. This investment by CN will ensure Manitoba continues to be a safe and reliable part of Canada’s supply chain.”
“Remaining committed to supporting Canadian businesses, our government continues to invest in Canada’s economy to encourage economic growth,” added The Honourable Marc Garneau, Minister of Transport, Government of Canada. “We are pleased to see companies such as CN do their share by investing in improving safety, growing its capacity and enabling trade through a safe and reliable rail network. Manitoba plays a central role in Canada’s rail network, connecting east, west, north and south. These investments support safe, efficient, internal and cross-border trade across the province, benefiting the Canadian economy as a whole.”
It’s not only the transportation and logistics firms striking it rich; Manitoba has certainly reaped the benefits of being a transportation hotspot. According to the MTA, there are over 13,000 Manitobans directly employed in the truck transportation sector, and figures show that for every ten jobs created in the trucking industry, seven jobs are created in associated industries. Furthermore, the transportation and warehousing industry employs 5.7 per cent of Manitoba’s labour force, and consistently makes up six to seven per cent of the provincial GDP.
Stats from 2018 from Economic Development Winnipeg show how vital the industry is to the local economy:
- $6.9 billion in Transportation and Distribution
- $1.2 billion in Truck Transportation in Manitoba
- 6,849 Transportation & Distribution business establishments
- $763 million in rail transportation
- $373 million in air transportation
“We’re seeing things in the industry that I’ve never seen before in my entire career,” says Rosenau. “We need to find innovative ways to address some of the challenges we’re facing, but at the same time the opportunities just keep coming.”