Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Attractive to farmers then; still attractive generations later

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AFFORDABLE land and things familiar lured settlers from the United Kingdom to Manitoba for generations -- and they still do.

Since 2000, more than 2,400 newcomers from the U.K. have made Manitoba their home. That includes 2,042 from England, 233 from Scotland, 82 from Wales and 62 from Northern Ireland.

Most arrived through the provincial nominee program for business, and nearly three-quarters are connected to agriculture and have settled outside the major cities, Manitoba Labour and Immigration says.

Manitoba has been promoting its business advantages throughout the U.K. at immigration fairs and agricultural trade shows.


"It's not that we are really out selling Manitoba," said Carl Huebner, a business immigration officer for the province.

"We're providing information that typically U.K. farm-based people are looking at, comparative factors... What's the price of farmland? How much can a hectare produce? What are the regulations? Stuff like that," said Huebner, who grew up on a farm in southwestern Manitoba.

In June, he'll be returning to the Scottish Royal Highland Show to promote Manitoba as a business destination. Huebner, who was at the trade show in Edinburgh last year, said visitors checking out Manitoba's tent aren't city folk with dreams of farming. They're experienced and know what they need to know, he said.

"There's an enormous amount of information -- soil type, production economics, manure management -- things like that, the farmers are interested in," said Huebner.

The price of land in the United Kingdom is so high, farmers who want to grow their businesses often can't afford to expand and may look abroad.

"Compared with the U.K. or Alberta or Ontario, Manitoba has a definite cost of production advantage," said Huebner. "They end up expanding here.

"It's a large and very important market for us."

Manitoba agriculture has received a major economic boost from U.K. business immigration, with more than $52 million in business investment since 2000.

Farmers in European Union countries have technology and farming practices similar to those in Manitoba, Huebner said.

"EU regulations are very, very stringent -- not to say ours are lax," he said.

U.K. farmers have to get passports for cows and paperwork filled out for moving animals across the road, he said.

"They can transfer that skill set to Manitoba," Huebner said.

Manitoba isn't just trying to lure farm types from the U.K.

In November, the nominee program and the Information Communication Technologies Association of Manitoba (ICTAM) and Online Business Systems went to a trade fair organized by Opportunities Canada in London. The goal was to recruit information-technology workers. A provincial government spokesman said he expects 10 applications from that trade fair.

This past year, the province has welcomed 66 new Manitobans from England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, he said.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 28, 2012 J12

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