Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Marketing, fact-finding jaunt for CentrePort

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THE CentrePort Canada team is taking its show on the road this week with a five-day tour of inland ports in Mexico and the United States to promote the Winnipeg site and start making contacts in the industry.

A 30-person group -- including Premier Greg Selinger at a couple of key stops -- will tour and make presentations at four inland ports this week. The trip will serve as the beginning of the marketing of CentrePort as well as an opportunity for its supporters to see how other inland ports work.

"We have a large network of stakeholders that all want to see CentrePort succeed," said the newly created inland port's CEO, Diane Gray. "There is no better way to impress on them what we can be in the future than for all of them to see first-hand what success stories look like."

The large group will include CentrePort staff, board members, officials from three levels of government and representatives from business and labour.

The tour, designed with the help of Canadian embassies and consulates, will start at Guanajuato, Mexico, today with stops at the Alliance Global Logistics Hub in Fort Worth, Texas, the Dallas Logistics Hub, the International Port of Memphis and CentrePoint Intermodal Center in Joliet, Ill.

CentrePort board member Chris Lorenc said the mission signals to the rest of the world that CentrePort is open for business.

"This is no longer a fiction," he said. "This is a major industrial land-use opportunity -- a foreign trade zone initiative with new emerging business opportunities that the world should take note of."

Ottawa's marketing of Canada's trade routes used to exclusively feature the Asia-Pacific gateway on the West Coast connecting to Toronto and Montreal.

Lorenc said that has already changed to include the fact there is $250 billion worth of trade that goes up and down the mid-continent trade corridor that has Winnipeg as its northern hub.

"That is a major shift," he said.

Gray and Selinger will speak to a group of about 150 business people involved in the logistics management and transportation industry in Joliet Friday.

Officials from OmniTRAX, the company that owns and operates the Hudson Bay Railway and the Port of Churchill, will host a tour of the BNSF Railway Company's intermodal operation at Alliance, which OmniTRAX operates for BNSF.

Gray said the trip will let CentrePort make contact with North America's network of rail and logistics operators as well as potential real estate investors.

"The fact is we are sitting on a significant acreage of industrial land adjacent to a large urban centre, which is unique to North America," Gray said.

One of the attractive selling features of the enterprise, especially in its early days, is the fact there is broad and deep community buy-in behind CentrePort. This week's trip is intended to convey that strength of commitment.

Bill Morrissey, vice-president of the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce and the executive behind the chamber's Selling Winnipeg to the World initiative, will be on the CentrePort trip.

He said his initiative depends on strong collaboration throughout the city's business, government and community organizations.

"CentrePort is a huge opportunity for us," he said. "The more and better informed we are about how the port might function, the better equipped we will be to support those opportunities."

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 11, 2010 B4

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