‘Be ambassadors’ economic development head tells city councillors

By | December 2, 2019

Dayna Spiring rapid-fired volleys of positive stories at councillors on the city’s innovation and economic development committee.

Software giant Ubisoft has a presence in Winnipeg. Skip the Dishes has settled its HQ in the city. Large national conferences are coming here.

Spiring, as president and CEO of Economic Development Winnipeg, gave the first of several scheduled updates to the committee — and she came with a message.

“Council has to do a better job about the great things in Winnipeg and not be so negative,” Spiring told councillors.

Spiring acknowledged issues such as crime are a concern for the city, but says those challenges exist in every city.

EDW president Dayna Spiring says “we just have to tell a better story” about Winnipeg. (CBC)

In an interview after the meeting, Spiring opened up her call to everyone in the city.

“I would challenge all Winnipeggers to be better ambassadors and I think our city council is the top of that list, but there are incredible things happening in our city,” she said.

Spiring took the committee through the reasons why Economic Development Winnipeg (EDW) got behind the Whiteout parties during Winnipeg Jet playoff runs.

The worldwide media focus framed the city in a positive light with a reach Spiring said she couldn’t match with the entire EDW budget.

And Spiring said the message sent by images of throngs of happy people countered other negative ones. Suddenly phone calls that were never returned in the past started to get a call back.

“This is not a little city in the middle of nowhere with potholes, no tall buildings and mosquitoes,” Spiring said.

Stiff competition with other cities

EDW oversees Yes Winnipeg and Tourism Winnipeg, and each play a specific role in promoting the city.

The organization has launched a talent hub to scan for skilled people, and has deployed an artificial intelligence program to “articulate the special advantages of Winnipeg.”

EDW faces stiff competition from other cities not only because they are often larger, with greater economic clout, but also because their development agencies have resources and staff far outweighing those of Winnipeg’s contingent.

It has been a time of some upheaval in Manitoba’s promotion and economic development sector as the Progressive Conservative government has sought a more streamlined strategy to boost trade and investment.

The World Trade Centre agency was tapped by the province to take the lead on trade.

Spiring told the committee her organization has to mesh with WTC, the city’s CentreVenture development arm and the federal government to hammer positive messages about the city and the province.

“We all need to be aligned,” she said.

Innovation committee chair John Orlikow admitted there was work for everyone to be a better ambassador for the city.

“Winnipeggers — and I’m to blame sometimes myself — get a little down on ourselves. But there are really some amazing things going on here. So we have to balance off some of that, I would call it the ‘Winnipeg way,’ where we are kind of [saying] ‘it could be better,'” Orlikow said.