City and RM Plans to Boost Tourism with New Branding and Investments

Posted 12/20/17

The City and Rural Municipality of Portage la Prairie are in the midst of launching new branding, as part of joint tourism efforts.

Portage la Prairie Regional Economic Development Executive Director Vern May explains what they’re working on right now.

“We’ve got a very aggressive timeline right now, so we’ve already committed to a print ad in Travel Manitoba’s print guide that comes out January 27th. So the website is first, the print guide is next, the colouring book follows that, and then we’ve got a meeting later this week with local retailers about how to get this branding out in terms of merchandising and souvenirs,” says May.

May notes tourism efforts have been really disjointed in recent years, with the city operating the tourism website, but all social media platforms run separately. He adds a number of organizations have felt under-represented by tourism efforts.

“Particularly with the RM, we’ve got a number of assets related to hunting and fishing and outdoor experiences that are very attractive to visitors from the United States, and the North Dakota market in particular, that we don’t even talk about. Or we don’t talk about what’s the story with the Coke can… people come into town and they see this thing and they want to know what it’s all about. So we need to be very collaborative and immersive in everything we’ve got to offer, and sell it in a way that makes it more attractive for more visitation. I’m very excited that we’ve got that regional support,” May explains.

The new “Island on the Prairies” logo was used on the ice at last week’s Canad Inns Canadian Mixed Doubles trials at Stride Place that was broadcast all across the nation. May says this is an obvious boost to the region’s tourism.

“It’s out there it’s public, I know that Travel Manitoba is going to be tickled to see just how well we’ve already embraced the brand and how it’s going to be launched, and we’re looking forward to a good partnership with them as well. So it’s not just us out there waving the flag saying Portage la Prairie is awesome, we’ve got support at a provincial level as well,” May says.

Aside from curling promotion, May says the city’s economic development helps with attracting people to town. PRED’s 4th quarter report highlights how much has been invested in the city.

“We generated or attracted almost 500-million-dollars in investment in one year. A big piece of that of course is Roquette, but there was 70-million-dollars in new investment on top of that. And that’s just above the $100,000 threshold. There might’ve been other small purchases. With re-investment, we certainly see some of those expansions taking place on Saskatchewan Avenue with various businesses…we’ve had 23-million-dollars in re-investment, which is a more exciting story I think than the bigger number, that’ we’ve got that much enthusiasm and investor confidence in people that are here, and see growth and potential for Portage la Prairie,” explains May.

May believes the Roquette investment in the community has created buzz about the place we call home.

“The first thing I think that is happening world wide is people are saying ‘Where the heck is Portage la Prairie? Let’s Google that and figure out why Roquette wants to be there.’ So now we’re getting a lot of inquiries for similar things. We could have another exciting announcement to make in the next few weeks with a big investment. I’m very encouraged about the potential immediately, but also the position it puts us in to market,” says May.

May adds if you’re trying to attract new investment and you say you’re a community that hasn’t grown in 25 years, and no significant investment has happened here in 15, it’s a much harder pitch than to say, right now you’re talking to a community that has attracted 500-million-dollars in investment in a single year, you need to pay more attention to why you’re business needs to be here, too. He says as an economic developer it’s a great time to be here.

RM of Portage la Prairie Reeve Kam Blight says the new branding ties the RM and the city together.

“That’s something we’ve been missing and now we have that. We do have two amazing municipalities with a lot of great attractions and services to offer people, so this is nice to have a brand that’s going to tie that all together,” says Blight.

May says the RM has already approved the new branding, while City Council has discussed it in Committee this week, and will go for official resolution in two weeks.

Renée Lilley