Portage Hosts and Wins the Awards at EDAM Conference

Posted 11/01/17

The Economic Developers Association of Manitoba (E.D.A.M.) is holding its semi-annual conference this week in Portage la Prairie, and the first annual EDAM Economic Development Awards evening took place last night.

Portage la Prairie came out on top in both of the awards presented.

Portage Regional Economic Development Executive Director Vern May won the Rising Star Award for developers in practice for less than five years who’ve made an impact.

“It was kind of one of those awkward predicaments in my mind. Once I saw the ballot, to see that Roquette was nominated — I thought that was a strong candidate. But the other one (Rising Star Award) is unbelievable. I’m still a little in awe to be selected for this award by a jury of your peers, who know economic development, and they know what good work is, is pretty rewarding.”

To have awards like this, May explains, honours the workers behind the projects when it’s usually every level of government who takes the credit. For EDO’s to get recognition for their work when the successful projects were only possibilities, through to realities, was previously unheard of. May says their wins in those cases aren’t their own, but belong to council of the day. Roquette’s example began five years ago and we’re only now seeing the results, and not even fully realizing it at this point. With 160 new jobs slated, potentially bringing in 160 new families to Portage, along with the great things associated, it’s a huge thing.

May says Jean-Marc Nadeau was instrumental in his choice to get involved with PRED. When May was in Minnedosa, he was part of a regional investment attraction project last year with Portage. They engaged CAI Global, a national site selector, to come and inform them of how they can make themselves more attractive to investment. During that time, a changeover occurred with Douglas Barill, the former E.D. for PRED, who vacated that position. He says Nadeau was assigned that project and approached May about the PRED position. He explains he was pretty frustrated with his former role, so offered his own potential selection. May says Nadeau sold the Portage opportunity quite well, and May couldn’t be happier with this choice.

“The move to Portage la Prairie was probably my best personal and professional decision of the past ten years,” May adds. “I’m looking forward to being here for a long time.”

Manitoba Agriculture industrial development leader Grant Carlson received the award for Economic Development Project of the Year on behalf of the Roquette project.

“It was a team award with the RM and the City of Portage, Hydro, and ourselves, as the main groups that worked with it,” says Carlson. “There was a lot of other people that were involved as well. Something that big has so many moving pieces.”

He says he helped make sure everything was coordinated and channelled in one direction for the company to get all the information. Carlson notes Vern May came in a few days after they made the announcement in January, and he got him involved in the company right away. Carlson notes he’s worked on a couple of other fairly large projects before and, though not this big, can say from experience that the work doesn’t begin once such an announcement is made. Once they’re actually coming, all must be ready for them when they arrive, making it almost a bigger job afterward.

Carlson adds the citizens of Portage are well-served to have the officials involved in whom they put their trust, including the City, RM, and all staff included.

Association president Marilyn Crewe adds it was serendipitous for the awards and evening to focus on Portage, but both parties were very well-deserving of the awards.

Michael Blume