The United Kingdom is hoping Manitoba can help it battle through the effects of a struggling global economy.
Tony Kay, newly appointed British consul general for the Prairie provinces, believes Manitoba can help fill some of the void created by troubled economies in Greece and Italy.
"There's no doubt that the U.K. economy has been affected by what's going on in the euro zone, but we have a plan. Part of that is to encourage and actively promote British companies to export to overseas markets," he said Tuesday during an interview at the Winnipeg Free Press News Café.
"We're trying to grow our way out of the difficulties that we and others have had over the past couple of years with the global economic downturn."
Kay, who is based in Calgary, and his team of five aren't here to sign any deals this week, but they're hoping to lay the groundwork for a flurry of them in the not-too-distant future.
"We look at the Prairie provinces as a place where Britain could do a lot of really cool stuff, whether on the trade, investment, science and technology, or cultural sides," he said.
For example, he said Britain is trying to encourage foreign companies to set up shop in England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales.
Kay met with members of Manitoba's life sciences, digital media, information, communication and technology sectors on Monday. On Tuesday night, the British contingent was networking with 100 "of the great and the good" from Manitoba industry and government.
"I've been struck with how dynamic, young, fresh and innovative people and organizations in this province are," Kay said. "It doesn't take someone like me to tell them they should be exploring opportunities overseas. It's in their DNA. I'd like them to be thinking about the U.K. when they're reaching out to those foreign markets," Kay said.
Even though Canada and the U.K. have an "extremely strong" trading relationship in both directions, Kay said part of his challenge is increasing awareness about Manitoba back home.
"Frankly, I don't think enough people know about (Manitoba) in the U.K. and Europe. I see my role not just to promote the U.K. in Manitoba but to help Manitoba promote itself to foreign markets. I don't think Manitoba should be shy," he said.
Kay wasn't about to complain about the bone-chilling temperatures in Winnipeg this week.
"It's not actually that cold inside; when you go outside, it is a bit chilly. I thought it would be a good idea to come here in what is statistically the coldest week of the year to demonstrate Britain's commitment to Manitoba is really strong and positive and not dictated by the fair weather," he said.