Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Foreign firms saying 'yes' to Winnipeg

Using Manitoba as home base

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Three foreign companies are setting up shop in Winnipeg with the intention of making this the home base for their new Canadian operations.

The three are among a total of seven out-of-province firms that have either been lured here or assisted in some way by Yes! Winnipeg, a private-sector organization launched 19 months ago to attract new companies to the city and to help existing firms expand their operations.

Between them, the seven companies expect to create about 200 new jobs at the outset, and up to 100 more within the next few years, Yes! Winnipeg leader Bill Morrissey said in an interview.

"People can say they are smaller companies and they are," he said. "But small companies can grow into big companies."

One of the three firms setting up their Canadian headquarters here is a Dallas-based company -- Vesta Home Delivery -- which recently landed a contract with IKEA to deliver and assemble furniture for its local customers when its Winnipeg store opens later this year.

Another -- Traffilog -- is a large Israeli company that offers web-based, fleet-management services to trucking firms and other transportation-related companies.

And the third, Orange Energy Solutions, is a joint venture involving Moshe Schneider, another New York businessman and a local manufacturing firm -- Brothers Industrial Supply Ltd.

Orange manufactures and installs rubber gaskets and other energy-saving products for the commercial refrigeration industry.

The other four newcomers to the city include two hotels, a health spa and a digital media company.

Although helping bring new business to the city is a big part of Yes! Winnipeg's mandate, Morrissey said the organization has also helped 27 local firms either launch new operations here, expand existing ones or retain the ones they have rather relocating elsewhere.

Morrissey said the 34 "successes" have helped to create or retain more than 750 jobs in the city.

He said the organization, which was launched by the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce and now operates as an arm of Economic Development Winnipeg, has 48 active files on the go. Eighteen involve out-of-province firms and 30 involve local firms.

Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce president Dave Angus said while he likes what Yes! Winnipeg has accomplished so far, "what I'm most impressed with is all the irons they have in the fire."

The fact the organization hasn't landed many big fish yet doesn't worry him.

"This stuff doesn't happen overnight. Often it's a matter of years in terms of start to finish," he said.

"I think the way to look at it is that we are really just at the beginning of this process (of attracting new businesses), and it's a great start with lots of other opportunities still in the hopper."

Orange Energy Solutions, which is already up and running, operates out of space in Brothers' Century Street factory.

It has already hired nine workers and is looking to add six or seven more as quickly as it can find them, Schneider said.

He said he and his New York partner chose Winnipeg for Orange's Canadian headquarters mainly because of its central location and the fact Manitoba Hydro is active in encouraging local businesses to become more energy efficient.

Brothers president Paul Bauer said it was Yes! Winnipeg that brought the two partners together because it recognized they'd be a good fit.

The New Yorkers needed to set up a manufacturing operation here and Brothers was already producing rubber gaskets for other types of industrial equipment.

Vesta Home Delivery spokesman Cecil Rials and Hans Peper, managing director of the local Traffilog office here, also cited Winnipeg's central location as one of the main attractions for their new operations.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 18, 2012 B5


Updated on Saturday, August 18, 2012 at 10:01 AM CDT: Fixes cutline.

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