NASCO Conference: Taking Note of the Manitoba Advantage

September 24, 2019

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This September 2019, I attended the NASCO Conference (North American Strategy for Competitiveness) in Columbus Ohio. NASCO is a tri-national network of the North American governments, business, and educational institutions that support and enhance collaboration along trade routes and networks. 

My interest in attending the conference was two-fold. First, as we develop our own METRO Region approach to economic development we need to be aware of the trends, processes and politics that impact trade and investment across North America. Secondly, there is a lot to learn from many of the US, Mexican and Canadian leaders who have a long and very successful approach to working regionally. Our ultimate goal is to grow our economy and ensure Manitobans have access to the future that they deserve.  

Former Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who opened the event, highlighted the fact that Canada depends on trade to thrive and prosper. As a trading nation, in fact, Canada is one of the only G7 countries with trade agreements with all other G7 countries. 

Living in Manitoba, the geographic centre of Canada, it is hard not to see our connection to trade. We have long been a logistics and transportation hub. Each day across our region we have thousands of box cars, countless trucks and numerous cargo planes moving goods and resources across North America and the globe. This trade is what drives our economy. To ensure that we will continue to grow our economy and prosperity we must pay attention what our trading partners and the markets demand.

According to many of the experts, increasing and enhancing our trade relationships and attracting investment, talent and capital to our METRO Region requires a strong unified voice to highlight the Manitoba advantage. It also requires a coordinated and strategic approach to land use, infrastructure investment as well as a regulatory environment that is navigable and demonstrates that we are open for business. 

I had the opportunity to meet with One Columbus, the economic development organization for the 11-county Columbus Region. This regional approach has made the Columbus Region the most prosperous and competitive region in the United States. Through the development of their regional growth strategy in 2010, the region has created 150,000 new jobs, and leads all metro regions in the Midwest in job growth, population growth and GDP growth.  

The Columbus Region, as well as others across Canada and the Unites States, offers sound ideas and examples to follow. As we enter the regional marketplace, the Winnipeg Metropolitan Region is beginning to create the foundation for our Made-in Manitoba approach to create good jobs, grow our GDP, and increase our diverse and skilled workforce.

Coming out of the NASCO conference, it has become very clear that if we are going to achieve the success that others across North America have realized and build our competitive advantages, we have some hard work ahead of us. To succeed we will require strong supportive leadership and solid partnerships with the business community to deliver for all Manitobans. 


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