Last week the Manitoba Chambers of Commerce (MCC) was on the road for the final Economic Development Tour of 2023. We loaded up a bus of business and government leaders in Winnipeg and headed south for two days of business tours and relationship building.
Participants gained valuable insights into a diverse array of successful businesses in the region, spanning from small-scale, handcrafted goods producers to high-tech manufacturing plants boasting automated processes. Despite their relatively low profiles, these businesses have mastered the art of exporting goods and services, attaining remarkable success on the global stage. These visits left a lasting impression of the quality of the businesses and people in the region and highlighted the opportunities for the province outside Winnipeg’s city limits.
Our first stop was at the Eastman Education Centre in Steinbach for a welcome session. We were greeted by the Mayor of Steinbach, Earl Funk, Mayor of Niverville, Myron Dyck, and the Reeve of La Broquerie, Ivan Normandeau as well as representatives from the Steinbach and Niverville chambers of commerce. We enjoyed delicious coffee and pastries from Stone City Coffee Roasters and Old Church Bakery as we heard about the opportunities and challenges in the region.
Next, we toured Barkman Concrete who celebrated their 75th anniversary this year and have begun the leadership transition to the third generation. Barkman produces a variety of sizes and shapes or concrete pavers, slabs, steps, edgers and more out of their highly automated production facilities in Steinbach and British Columbia.
We had a wonderful lunch at the Mennonite Heritage Village and heard about the mission and vision of the museum from Executive Director, Gary Dyck.
Following lunch, we headed to Lynn & Liana Designs, a local family run business that has taken the world by storm. From their unassuming facility in the Steinbach industrial park, they design and manufacture one-of-a-kind, hand-poured resin accented cheeseboards and serving trays, and ship them to luxury stores around the world. In just 4 years they’ve grown out of their garage and into an international brand with repeat celebrity customers. These are the incredible stories we just love to hear on our tours!
Next, we toured Loewen Windows & Doors. They’ve been in business in Steinbach since 1905 and today employ over 400 people at their 660,000ft2 facility (over 11 football fields!). Loewen is committed to producing handcrafted windows and doors. Their expert craftspeople are supported by high-tech, automated technologies, but it’s the skilled hands in the makerspaces that have earned them the reputation among discerning architects, builders, and homeowners across North America.
We capped off day-one with a networking dinner at Quarry Oaks Golf Course. It was a great chance to continue conversations with some of the connections made throughout the day and welcome additional faces from the local business community to meet our delegates.
Our first stop of day two was the brand new HyLife Pork head office building. HyLife started as a 250-sow farm in the neighboring community of La Broquerie. Today they produce more than 3.6 million hogs per year and process 3.9 million at specialized plants in Manitoba to create their high-quality products that are valued around the world, but particularly in Japan. Earlier this year they completed construction and moved into their new 47,000ft2 global headquarters located in the heart of Steinbach.
Our next stop was Bausch Health, Canada’s largest innovative health care company. Bausch proudly creates more than 300 products for patients in Canada and around the world. In Steinbach, Bausch manufactures over 24 different solid oral dose tablets and capsules (including Cold FX). Following a brief presentation, delegates had the opportunity to suit up in lab coats and tour the impressive manufacturing and packaging areas of the 246,000ft2 facility.
Next up was Harv’s Air, one of Canada’s largest flight training schools, located on the outskirts of Steinbach. Harv’s started in 1972 and today sees an average of 400 students graduate from their programs each year. Over 60% of those students are international students from countries such as India, Pakistan, UK, France, and Korea (among others). Delegates got a tour of two different hangars housing Harv’s fleet of aircraft and had the chance to sit in some of the small planes. Some tested their skills on the advanced flight simulators used during training.
Next, we loaded up the bus and headed to Niverville for more tours! Our first stop was for lunch at the Niverville Heritage Centre, an innovative, community-owned meeting place housing a variety of amenities for residents and the community at large including medical clinics, a dental clinic, pharmacy, childcare centre, hair salon, café, tavern, and event centre.
After lunch, we visited the Community General Store, home to Earth & Hide, a local leather goods brand born from craftsman Chuck Allen’s need to work with his hands. Chuck and Amy, who moved to Niverville from the United States in 2021, purchased the Community General Store as an extension to complement Earth & Hide. We met with Amy who told us their inspiring story, offered samples of some local baked goods they stock in their store and delegates took advantage of an opportunity to #BuyLocal.
Our final stop of the tour was the Niverville Community Resource & Recreation Centre, which was completed in 2022. At 9,200ft2, the CRRC hosts nearly 60 programs and activities that merge interests in sports, community, arts and culture, fitness, leisure, and general wellness to promote personal growth, self-esteem, and health awareness of residents. The CRRC is also home to the Niverville Nighthawks, who celebrated their inaugural season in 2022-23.
Thank you to all our tour participants for joining us and to all the local officials & business leaders who shared their community with us!