Cover Story Economy

You can’t not love Winnipeg

Winnipeg Skyline

Economic Development Winnipeg positioning the city on the global stage 

When Michael B. Jordan gets wind of what’s coming down the pipe in Winnipeg, the head of Economic Development Winnipeg hopes he’s going to be head-over-heels and dreaming about Manitoba’s capital.

You know, “not not in love.”

When asked by late night TV host Jimmy Kimmel if he loved Winnipeg recently, the star of Hollywood blockbuster Creed III replied, “I don’t not love Winnipeg.”

“Our marketing team jumped on the chance to get some mileage out of this brush with celebrity, because it plays into who we think we are,” says Dayna Spiring, President & CEO of EDW, Winnipeg’s lead economic development agency and champion for local growth, which includes Tourism Winnipeg and YES! Winnipeg. “You can’t not love Winnipeg. It’s a great city and we’re humble!”

Living the brand
Spiring says EDW is doubling down on the “Winnipeg: Made from what’s real” brand, which was launched last June.

“We are preparing new campaigns and initiatives to showcase Winnipeg to the world, supported by this bold brand. Our goal is to continue making impressions that last and connections that matter,”
– Dayna Spiring, President & CEO of EDW

The new branding has paid dividends from the start.

“It was designed to be intriguing and broad enough to be used for every part of our story. But above all, it was designed to be authentic, to reflect who we are and to help define who we have yet to become,” she says.

“I think the brand launch has gone exceptionally well. Winnipeggers have come to embrace it and are starting to feel like they own it. This is a platform that empowers us all to speak with confidence about our competitive advantages wherever we go, and we’re going places.”

Spiring is quick to note that place brands are different from their product counterparts because they’re much more than just a logo, wordmark or slogan.

“A place brand is a feeling. It’s meant to capture the essence of a location and its people, who we are at our very core, and the unique elements that set us apart and define the destination. Most importantly, the brand shapes the stories we tell the world about our city.”

The branding, and all the back stories about Winnipeg’s legacy, key economic sectors and future possibilities have given Spiring opportunities during her travel and speaking engagements to sprinkle fun facts that many may not know about Winnipeg. 

For example, the real-life James Bond—war hero Sir William Stephenson, code-named Intrepid—was from Winnipeg. Walt Disney’s Winnie the Pooh was named in honour of a real-life bear named for the Manitoba capital, and Martin Cooper, the inventor in 1973 of the portable personal telephone—you call it a cell phone today—was born in Chicago but spent his formative years in the Chicago of the North—Winnipeg.

While Spiring has been Winnipeg’s de facto chief storyteller since the brand’s launch, she would like a little help from those who know the city best—Winnipeggers themselves.

“When I’m talking to a business audience, they know how to sell. We can tell a great story of what we do in this city and it’s a better story than many other places. What we say and how we say it matters, so I want people to think about that,” she says.

“I will always take the opportunity to invite people to be ambassadors for our city. Talk about the great things that happen here and encourage your friends, family and colleagues to discover or rediscover us. We are bustling with activity, we are affordable and we are a friendly place to call home. We are filled with surprises and we know that many first-time visitors leave here having had world-class experiences,” she says.

An army of support
Spiring doesn’t have to look far to find high-profile supporters. Brad Fedorchuk, Executive Vice-President, Group Customer, at insurance giant Canada Life, says he’s fully on board with Dayna’s call for ambassadors to shine the light on the many things Winnipeg has to offer. 

“I’ve never been shy about sharing the many reasons why I’m proud to be from Winnipeg, especially when travelling or meeting with people from different cities. I hope other Winnipeggers do the same.”

Telling a great story about our competitive differentiators and excellent quality of life helps our city grow, and large employers like Canada Life attract and retain employees.

YES! Winnipeg, a division of EDW that focuses on business attraction, expansion and retention — including through foreign direct investment — partners with members of Winnipeg’s private sector to drive economic growth while leveraging their investment to maximize public sector funding.

Fedorchuk says that as a YES! Winnipeg investor, Canada Life’s leaders benefit from regular opportunities to network and build professional relationships with peers.

“Winnipeg is home to innovative businesses, facilities and talent, and the whole EDW organization has raised the bar significantly when it comes to connecting us while showcasing the city to the world.”
– Brad Fedorchuk, executive vice-president, group customer

Nick Hays, president and CEO of the Winnipeg Airports Authority (WAA), also a YES! Winnipeg investor, knows a little bit about great cities, having been posted in Tokyo and Vancouver earlier in his career. He appreciates the focus on business development, investment and talent attraction. 

“Working with YES! Winnipeg opens doors for us and helps align us with other businesses both in Winnipeg and around the world.  YES! Winnipeg is an active partner in the community with the same goal as the WAA—whatever is best for the Manitoba capital.”
– Nick Hays, president & CEO, Winnipeg Airports Authority

Hays hopes ambassadors continue to unleash a torrent of goodwill to help people see the city for what it is, not the old stereotypes.

“Sure, Winnipeg is cold in the winter but that doesn’t mean you need to hibernate. On the same day you can skate on one of the longest river skating trails in the world, visit the Canadian Museum for Human Rights and walk under the swimming polar bears at the Assiniboine Park Zoo. Not many cities in the world can claim that. There is always something to do in Winnipeg no matter the season and thanks to the work of EDW and others, the world is starting to notice,” he says.

While the team is always on the lookout for companies looking to move to Winnipeg, EDW’s bread and butter is convincing firms that already call Winnipeg home to expand their operations.

“The best opportunity we have is to take care of the companies that are already here,” says Ryan Kuffner, EDW Vice President of Sales & Business Development. “Our mission is to promote growth, so we work hard to advocate on behalf of Winnipeg business and to create an environment that will allow companies to be successful. Addressing our business community’s challenges is our first priority, so they can increase their market potential.” 

That could mean recommending enhancements to our tax framework, sourcing investible land, attracting new talent pools to address labour shortages, or helping an employer solve a regulatory issue. 

Spiring is particularly proud of EDW’s current and future role in growing air services from Winnipeg, especially WestJet’s thrice-weekly non-stop service to Los Angeles that launched last October.

“Direct flights to LAX are boosting tourism and building capacity for the film industry in Winnipeg, where we have one of the most competitive tax credits in North America. They’re also creating convenient connections for life sciences and other food-based companies in California.”

But she says that EDW is continuing to work on additional flight options. 

“We want to be a city that retains our businesses and helps them see the potential of expansion here, while offering space to realize big dreams. That means making sure we have the connectivity we need to do business from Winnipeg, so we can’t and won’t take our foot off the gas in advocating for increased routes.”

The future is bright
Whatever the future will bring for EDW, Spiring won’t be defining it for much longer. She announced in mid-March that she’ll be stepping down from her role as its president and CEO this summer after seven years at the helm.

Some of the feathers in her cap during her tenure include Winnipeg’s designation as the World’s Most Intelligent Community in 2021, spearheading the downtown White-Out Street Parties coinciding with the Winnipeg Jets’ playoff appearances in 2018 and 2019, and the city’s successful bids to host the Grey Cup in 2025 and the World Police & Fire Games this summer. 

Spiring is quick to share her love for Winnipeg and says that she feels ready to pass the EDW baton.

“This city is a special place with a supportive business community and economic ecosystem that works collaboratively to fuel innovation. My vision for EDW has been to serve as a catalyst for growth and my personal mission is to champion our city everywhere I go. We have incredible arts and culture, a vibrant culinary scene, we’re an affordable place to live and do business compared to most other major centres, and we enjoy an excellent quality of life. It has been an absolute privilege to lead an organization whose team is telling that story.”

Successes, Real Impact & Noteworthy Wins

  • Business intelligence: EDW collects and analyzes economic indicators to drive its activities, benefit YES! Winnipeg investors and local businesses, and provide data and insights to government.
  • Job creation: YES! Winnipeg’s Real Impact campaign (2021-2025) includes a goal to create 10,000 ongoing jobs (direct, indirect and induced) in Winnipeg. Just two years in, the team has contributed to the creation of more than 5,500 jobs, valued at $546 million in real GDP.
  • Capital investment: At the close of 2022, just two years into the campaign, YES! Winnipeg had raised 209% of its 5-year capital investment goal.
  • Talent attraction: The Talent & Workforce Development team attracts, connects, mobilizes and recruits talent to build a strong pipeline for local employers. The Work in Manitoba job portal, an initiative of the Province of Manitoba administered by EDW, was launched in November, and 15,000+ job seekers and 1,000 employers have already created profiles within.
  • Foreign direct investment: YES! Winnipeg’s FDI team recently travelled to Cannes with valued partners to participate in MIPIM, the world’s largest real estate and development convention and tradeshow, to increase awareness of Winnipeg and showcase investible properties.
  • Partnerships: In 2022, Tourism Winnipeg (TW) launched the new Team Winnipeg initiative, welcoming a group of 30+ (and growing!) hoteliers, attractions, and hospitality service providers wanting to amplify TW’s efforts through investment. 
  • Special events: In 2022, the TW team booked business and special events that will inject more than $80 million into Winnipeg’s economy in the coming years.
Photo provided by WAA

Rising higher with Winnipeg Airports Authority

Winnipeg has many natural advantages that make it a great city from which to do business, including its central location in both Canada and North America and its rich transportation legacy dating back to the early days of the railway.

Nick Hays, President and CEO of the Winnipeg Airports Authority (WAA), says that the recent addition of a direct flight to Los Angeles on WestJet and several other new routes currently in negotiation will support our city’s potential for economic growth.

“What makes such a great place for business is the people. The Winnipeg business community is supportive, inclusive and committed to making Winnipeg a world-class city,” he says.

“WAA works with business leaders and the community to provide the infrastructure and service needed for success. Whether that’s attracting new routes to connect local business with new markets or developing the Westside lands to help drive our economy, the Winnipeg business community knows they can count on the Airports Authority.”

Winnipeg is a city which has its share of challenges when it comes  to recruiting people, but once they’re here, it’s often impossible to get them to leave.

“You need to visit Winnipeg to truly appreciate everything the city has to offer. There are world-class museums, post-secondary institutions, professional sports teams and, while I might be a little biased, a world-class airport. They’re all just part of what makes the city unique. But for me, it always comes back to the people. The spirit of Winnipeggers is incredible and what makes the city so special,” he says.

Did you know?
WAA and Winnipeg:
4.5 million passengers annually
$4.3 billion in economic impact from airport operations
18,000 jobs supported

Canada Life in Winnipeg

Canada Life has roots in Winnipeg

As the biggest publicly traded company based in Manitoba, Canada Life has a long history of supporting Manitobans. Brad Fedorchuk, Executive Vice-President, Group Customer, says Winnipeg is a great place from which to do business.

“Winnipeg offers us a stable economy and a skilled labour force that’s representative of many cultures. That means we reflect our customers within our own walls. Having a team that’s diverse and representative of our customers is invaluable as it provides us with the perspective we need to best serve their current and future needs,” he says.

In fact, he believes Winnipeg will be an even better place to live, work and play in five years, 10 years and beyond.

“As we attract more talent and people put down roots and open small businesses in our communities, I really see Winnipeg continuing to grow—and I don’t see the pace slowing down any time soon. We have so much to offer—a stable economy, a driven workforce, affordable housing, and the list goes on,” he says.

Fedorchuk says he never hesitates to share the many reasons he’s proud to be from Winnipeg with non-Manitobans. For those considering starting their business here or expanding their current operations, he suggests joining a business-focused association to hear about all the great things Winnipeg has to offer from those who have experienced growing their business here. 

This year, Canada Life celebrates a 175-year history. The company has been known as Canada Life since 2020 when Great-West Life, London Life and Canada Life rebranded under the unified Canada Life brand.

“As a company, our purpose is to improve the financial, physical and mental well-being of Canadians,” says Fedorchuk. “It’s the driving force behind everything we do, and we believe we can do it best working together with our colleagues, customers, advisors and the community.”


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