THE Winnipeg Jets organization is not officially an arm of Economic Development Winnipeg, but the new NHL franchise is opening doors for the city's economic development agency.
The agency responsible for promoting and marketing the city for business and investors and promoting tourism claimed another successful year.
At its annual meeting Tuesday, CEO Marina James said visitor traffic was up seven per cent last year and is forecast to grow by four per cent this year. After that, she said annual increases of between six and eight per cent are expected for the next few years.
It's obviously not just about the Jets, but the team is certainly helping put Winnipeg on radar screens.
Bill Morrissey, head of EDW's Yes! Winnipeg operation, said when approaching a businesses to encourage investment in Winnipeg, the presence of the Jets has led to a few more businesses to listen to his pitch.
"The visibility Winnipeg has received as a result of the Jets is very definitely making a difference in name recognition," Morrissey said. "Increasingly, we are having the opportunity to have the discussion (about the relative merits of doing business in Winnipeg). And when they listen to it, they are impressed."
Mary Jane Loustel, who became chair of EDW's board last year, said in her travels across the country as national aboriginal program executive for IBM Canada, the presence of the Jets serves like an outreach program from the city.
"It connects us with other cities and brings attention to Winnipeg," she said. "It's much bigger than a hockey team."
In its annual report released Tuesday, EDW listed an array of accolades when it comes to the city's economy.
In addition to high-profile developments such as the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, the new airport terminal, IKEA and the Bomber stadium, among the city's bragging rights are:
-- The most cost effective city for aerospace manufacturing in the western United States and Canada (KPMG);
-- In the Top 10 best places to live in Canada (Moneysense.ca);
-- One of the top intelligent communities in the world two years in a row (Intelligent Community Forum's Smart21 communities); and
-- The lowest cost of electricity of major metro areas in the United States and Canada (Hydro Quebec comparison of electricity prices in major North American cities 2010).
EDW is also responsible for tourism promotion and the organization has made significant headway with a new marketing strategy and visitor profile.
In 2010, the 2.8 million visitors (up seven per cent from the previous year) spent $506 million, up five per cent from 2009.) Last year, its Tourism Winnipeg operation secured 195 new meetings and conventions that will bring 52,000 delegates to the city -- between now and 2018 -- who will spend about $50 million in the city.
In 2011, meeting and convention traffic was up about 5.4 per cent and spending increased by about 4.4 per cent to $49.8 million.
TWO Toronto entrepreneurs who are investing close to $20 million to build a Hampton Inn by Hilton in Winnipeg were impressed with the welcoming event orchestrated this week by Yes! Winnipeg.
The outreach arm of Economic Development Winnipeg, created through private and public funding to expedite business development in Winnipeg, helped negotiate an entry into the Winnipeg market for the hoteliers whose development will ultimately lead to 35 new jobs.
Last year, Yes! Winnipeg assisted in 18 success stories that were responsible for about 475 jobs.
Bill Morrissey, leader of Yes! Winnipeg, said there is a solid list of about 70 leads in the pipeline, which represent the cross-section of the city's economic sectors.
But he said the busiest sectors are media and information technology and the agriculture sector.
"There was lots of discussion and speculation about what the Canadian Wheat Board legislation would lead to, but we have definitely seen a spike in interest in the ag sector," Morrissey said. "There is a lot more activity happening and a lot of it as a result of the legislation."
He said the new leads are coming from companies that previously had a small presence in the city or none at all, as well as companies looking to do major expansions.
Its biggest success last year was the announced $90-million expansion of Maple Leaf's ham-processing plant, which will lead to 350 new jobs.
Morrissey said his group is talking to food-processing companies. He said many of them want to hear about Maple Leaf's due diligence process, which included the closing of other plants leading up to its decision to make a significant revamp to its Winnipeg ham-processing plant.