Western Economic Diversification Canada
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Business Development

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Gaining Access to Larger Markets

Across the West, female entrepreneurs are developing quality products that have the potential to be marketed abroad but face challenges in reaching the right networks and markets. Help towards bridging this gap, which will enable women entrepreneurs to grow their businesses, is coming from the Women’s Enterprise Initiative (WEI).

The WD-funded network, which has resource centres in each of the four western provinces, is half-way through a two-year pilot project charged with helping established businesses expand into larger markets.

The Access to Supply Chains project has already seen women sign more than $850,000 in new deals through the Connecting for Contracts program (C2C) according to Program Manager Marcela Mandeville.

Mandeville, who is also Chief Operating Officer for Alberta Women Entrepreneurs, the Edmonton-based organization that administers the program in Alberta, said many major retailers are very interested in doing business with Canadian women. "They are quite happy with the level of innovation, professionalism and the ideas that Canadian women bring to the table."

This June, for example, Mandeville led a delegation of women entrepreneurs to the annual Women in Business conference in Las Vegas, the largest gathering of its kind in North America. There, she said, the Canadians were greeted warmly by prospective buyers from Walmart, Walgreens, Pfizer, Johnson and Johnson, and Home Depot, plus Shell and other petroleum firms, among others.

Most of the women participating in the program have a fair degree of experience running a company and are looking to expand their businesses. However, said Mandeville, there are also relative newcomers "who are savvy, who have been around for only a year or so, but have accomplished much."

In addition to helping establish networks between buyers and sellers, the C2C program also offers a certification service, which guarantees that businesses are run by women and where at least 51 percent of the business is owned by women. So far, about 40 businesses have been certified, said Mandeville.

A third component involves the hosting of a series of business-growth workshops and conferences throughout the region, in order to help women develop their own peer-to-peer networks and connect with the businesses that will help them succeed in today’s competitive marketplace.

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Manitoba Film and TV Production Companies Take on the World

Photo of a new Don Cherry film in production, Keep Your Head Up Kid: The Sequel.

New Don Cherry film in production, Keep Your Head Up Kid: The Sequel. The photo is of the 'Hockey Night in Canada' set, constructed in the Stonewall Manitoba Curling Rink.

Recognized as the fourth largest film production centre in Canada after Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver, Winnipeg’s screen-based industry, led by On Screen Manitoba, is pushing its way onto the world stage. Last year, four national and international television drama series were shot in Winnipeg, highlighting the competitiveness of Manitoba producers.

This recent success is at least partially due to an investment from WD and the Province of Manitoba to help even more companies seize a share of attractive national and international projects.

The funding supports the Access Project, an economic development strategy that helps Manitoba production companies adapt to new technology, address emerging skill requirements and thus improve their competitiveness in global markets.

"Our Government recognizes the importance of Manitoba’s screen-based industry and we are proud to support their continued development," said the Honourable Vic Toews, Minister of Public Safety and Member of Parliament for Provencher, on behalf of Minister Yelich. "This funding helps On Screen Manitoba expand the Manitoba screen-based industry and create jobs, while showcasing our province as a premier film production destination."

"The industry is in a period of rapid transition as digital technology is affecting the entire value chain from production, marketing and distribution to financing structures," said On Screen Manitoba Executive Director Nicole Matiation. "The Access Project allows us to provide professional, business and market development opportunities to Manitoba production companies."

"The project has also allowed On Screen Manitoba to expand our services for Francophone and Aboriginal writers, directors and producers," she added. "This is making the entire industry more aware of the diversity of local talent."

Louis Paquin, who co-founded Rivard Productions 15 years ago, said the assistance On Screen Manitoba can now provide has given the industry a critical degree of respect and credibility. "Now we have a champion," Paquin said.

Film and TV production has a major impact on Manitoba’s economy, and so does On Screen Manitoba, said Phyllis Laing, On Screen Manitoba Chair, and Executive Producer of Buffalo Gal Pictures.

"Our market development initiatives resulted in nine distinct production projects coming to Manitoba, with total production value of more than $14.6 million and at least $5.6 million spent here," Phyllis said.

There are over 30 active production companies in the province, which together are responsible for some 1,500 jobs each year.

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Building on Saskatchewan’s Export Economy

The Next Steps

WD has continued to assist STEP by supporting the presence of western Canadian agricultural machinery manufacturers at Agritechnica, an international agricultural machinery exhibition in Hanover, Germany, November 13-19, 2011. STEP collaborated with the Manitoba Trade & Investment Corporation, who also received support from WD, to ensure the complementary pavilions branded Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Western Canada as a leader in agricultural equipment manufacturing and innovation, as well as increased awareness of western agricultural machinery companies and helped them expand their participation in global markets by increasing their equipment exports.

Saskatchewan is rapidly becoming known as an economic powerhouse, providing $12 billion in goods and services domestically and exporting another $24 billion internationally.

As impressive as these numbers are, the team that runs the Saskatchewan Trade and Export Partnership (STEP) is convinced the business community can do even better. And funds from WD are helping the Partnership find a way.

Last year, WD provided STEP – a privately-led non-profit corporation – with funding for a project geared to increasing the number of export-ready companies in Saskatchewan by 15 percent. The funding is allowing Saskatchewan firms to create more employment, access greater exporting opportunities, and ultimately grow their business.

"By working with small and medium sized businesses in Saskatchewan, this project helped our economy grow and created new jobs," said Minister Yelich.

STEP used the WD funds to assist at least 60 more companies become exporters by 2012. "We looked at companies that were doing well within a 50-kilometre radius, and then asked if they could do well in a market with a radius of 500 to 5,000 kilometres," said STEP’s President and CEO, Lionel LaBelle. "We want to turn 20 new companies into exporters each year."

So far, STEP is ahead of schedule. After 113 consultations with small and medium-sized firms, 38 firms have had their books reviewed and 22 have already made the transition to exporting their goods and services. "We’ve been in every one of the major cities, meeting with chambers of commerce and a broad cross-section of people," said LaBelle.

The companies involved work in the manufacturing, mining and agricultural sectors, including food processors in both the organic and conventional markets. If the next two years see similar progress, the team should be able to report meeting its target.

The guiding principle of the project is for STEP to serve as a knowledge broker and mentor for Saskatchewan businesses, helping them, as LaBelle points out, to find ways to export their products and services outside the province. "Our role is to show that they do have the capacity to take on the world."