The Business Council of Manitoba was formed in the aftermath of 1997's Flood of the Century.
That was nearly a couple of years after the departure of the Winnipeg Jets 1.0.
They were not happy times in the province.
The province is in much better shape now, and the BCM has matured to the point that the just-announced departure of its original president and CEO -- and its public face -- Jim Carr, is something that will not cause the organization to break stride.
'The (BCM) has been a key contributor to the success of aboriginal students'
"The work of the business council will absolutely continue," said the current chairman, Murray Taylor, CEO of Investors Group. "It was always well understood that Jim would not be with us forever. The world of the Business Council of Manitoba has solidified over the course of 15 years."
It was originally conceived by Arthur Mauro and the late Harold Buchwald out of a perception on the part of business leaders of the day there was a gap that needed to be filled.
Carr said, "A number of them got together and agreed that they wanted to form a business council. They asked me if I would be the founding president. I thought about it for about 20 seconds. After 16 years at the BCM, I did not have a bad day on the job."
Carr is leaving to attempt another foray into public life. On Thursday, he announced he will seek the Liberal nomination in the federal riding of Winnipeg South Centre.
He was a Liberal MLA in the Manitoba legislature from 1988 to 1992.
'I've always been very supportive of the group. We have aligned very well with them'
A search committee for Carr's successor has been struck, headed by former BCM chairman Doug Harvey. Taylor said they are not wasting any time but it will not be rushed to find the right candidate.
The relative improvement in the province's fortunes has mirrored the history of the BCM, not to say they are taking credit for it.
"The purpose was to have a constructive business leadership voice to the public-policy discussion in Manitoba, and that remains the objective," Carr said. "The advantage of a group such as this is that, because of the stability of the organization and the perspective of the membership, we can afford not to think in four-year electoral cycles. We can think in longer terms."
Issues that have been at the top of the BCM's agenda include increasing immigration in the province and addressing important aboriginal-education concerns. They would not be the obvious ones from a 75-member organization made up of the CEOs of the largest firms in the province.
"Probably our strongest theme at the moment is creating greater equality of educational access and outcomes for our aboriginal community, both on and off reserves," Taylor said. "That's not what you would call self-serving in how to make the interests of a particular business thrive. These are long-term things."
Carr and Taylor stress the respectful, collaborative approach has been the council's modus operandi.
"The only way to sustain influence is by being credible," Carr said. "The only way you can be credible is to be well-researched, never take cheap shots and reach out to all governments, blind to partisanship. We have never lost sight of the value of that."
The BCM also wanted to have a distinctive voice and did not want to duplicate or compete with others.
"We co-ordinated extremely well," said Dave Angus, president of the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce. "I've always been very supportive of the group. We have aligned very well with them. Jim and I have had just a tremendous relationship since I have started. The reality is we are very different organizations."
In addition to its aggressive leadership on the immigration file, one of its highest-profile accomplishments has been its aboriginal-education awards. Initiated by the BCM, it has cost-shared equally with the federal and provincial government for 1,500 post-secondary scholarships for aboriginal students, valued at about $4.2 million over several years.
For that and other reasons, an organization whose members include the likes of Taylor, Hartley Richardson, Sandy Riley, Art DeFehr and Mark Chipman garners goodwill across the board, including from Derek Nepinak, the outspoken grand chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs.
"The Business Council of Manitoba has been a key contributor to the success of aboriginal students in their post-secondary pursuits," Nepinak said. "There is no doubt in my mind that Jim has been a very solid leader in bringing the principles of the council to the greater community of Winnipeg and Manitoba."