New trade designation opens up opportunity
Winnipeg Free Press
By: Martin Cash
The approval of a World Trade Centre licence for Winnipeg means the wheels are already in motion for a new signature office building downtown.
At its annual meetings in San Diego this week, the World Trade Centers Association unanimously approved the licence application for the establishment of a bilingual World Trade Centre in Winnipeg.
The private-sector application was funded to the tune of $200,000 by ANIM (L’Agence nationale et internationale du Manitoba) and the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce. (ANIM received its $100,000 portion from a donation from National Bank Financial.)
Details on how the WTC will manifest itself in Winnipeg have yet to be determined, but organizers say they are confident the centrepiece will eventually be a new WTC-branded building.
“The opportunity to leverage the licence to stimulate a new office building in downtown Winnipeg is too good to pass up,” said Dave Angus, president of the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce.
“We probably could not do this five years ago, but we are having lots of conversations and there are lots of opportunities we are pursuing.
“I am extremely confident we will be able to pull together a project.”
Angus said he hoped that within the next 12 months they would have a project in place, but he couldn’t say how it would be funded or what sort of partnership agreements would be required.
He said lots of different scenarios and locations are being discussed, including somehow being part of the development proposed around the Winnipeg Convention Centre expansion.
The New York-based World Trade Centers Association is a non-profit organization with about 330 centres in close to 100 countries that facilitates and promotes two-way international trade.
Membership in one gives members access to all of the other centres.
Every location configures its suite of trade development and market intelligence services differently, but most include amenities located in a WTC-branded real estate development.
“If we are going to do a World Trade Centre building, it would have to be at least 12 to15 storeys with an international flavour that’s very much a meeting place,” Angus said.
Despite a boom in real estate development by Winnipeg standards, downtown office space in the city still features a fairly high vacancy rate.
Don White, a broker with Colliers International, said there is a lot of available stock of office buildings, including ones that can be rehabilitated.
“But I am sure there are users that might need their own new space for their own reason,” he said. “If what is in the market does not meet their need, could I see someone build for that reason? Absolutely.”
While Angus and the chamber work on the real estate development component, Mariette Mulaire, president and CEO of ANIM, will become the first president and CEO of WTC Winnipeg.
As such, the work that ANIM was doing in organizing this October’s second Centrallia conference will immediately become the WTC’s first Winnipeg project.
“Centrallia becomes a major WTC event,” she said. “Not just an event, but a whole program of preparing for the conference and handling the follow-up.”
It may become a sustainable signature event for the Winnipeg WTC with a regular influx of small and medium-sized business people flocking to the city every two years, looking to grow business through new international markets, which is precisely the WTC’s mandate.
Membership in the WTC also means Mulaire will have access to a huge new network of potential delegate leaders who can bring participants to the events. Centrallia relies on fees that domestic and international participants pay. Delegate leaders who bring in participants receive a fee.
“We already made contact with four or five potential delegation leaders at the San Diego meetings,” she said.
While it was private sector efforts and funding that landed the licence, both Angus and Mulaire said its ongoing operations will depend on financial participation from the provincial government. Most WTCs around the world receive support from local government.
The Selinger government has been involved in the process and has been supportive, giving it a mention in this week’s budget speech.
But Peter Bjornson, minister of entrepreneurship, training and trade, said it remains to be seen what the province’s role will be in the WTC.
“We certainly are very supportive, but it is too early to be specific about what our role will be,” he said. “But we are very excited that they received the designation and it is great news for the province.”
Last year, the province’s Council on International Trade, co-chaired by Bjornson and Angus, produced Manitoba’s first-ever trade strategy.
Efforts to increase Manitoba’s presence in international markets have been increasing to adapt to changes in global economic growth dynamics, where countries such as Brazil, Russia, India and China (the so-called BRIC nations) are generating the most intense economic growth.
Angus said the WTC’s planning from the beginning revolved around collaborative programing that includes all interested parties. That approach may be more crucial with the recent news the federal government is planning to close its international trade office in Winnipeg. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
WTC member services and facilities
Trade information and market research — World Trade Centres provide up-to-date information about their respective regions, including local products and services, market conditions, government regulations and business culture. WTCs furnish detailed profiles of local business contacts, including manufacturers, distributors and services providers.
Business services –WTCs offer state of the art support facilities including video conferencing, Internet access, word processing and more. Flexible arrangements for temporary office space, meeting rooms, secretarial services and translation capabilities are also available.
Trade education services — WTCs offer international trade courses about key local and global business issues.
Group trade missions — Includes taking part in outbound missions to explore new markets and receiving incoming business groups.
WTC clubs — Promote business networking by providing comfortable lounge and dining services for members and their guests. Offer private rooms with general office services for various types of business gatherings. Networking forums are arranged on specialized subjects to facilitate business contacts.